The Mad King

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 173

and let us work together for the salvation of our country
and your majesty's throne."

Barney laid his hand upon the old man's shoulder. It seemed a shame
to carry the deception further, but the American well knew that only
so could he accomplish aught for Lutha or the Von der Tanns. Once
the old chancellor suspected the truth as to his identity he would
be the first to denounce him.

"I think that you and I can work together, Prince Ludwig," he said.
"I have sent for the Serbian and Austrian ministers. The former
should be here immediately."

Nor did they have long to wait before the tall Slav was announced.
Barney lost no time in getting down to business. He asked no
questions. What Von der Tann had told him, what he had seen with his
own eyes since he had entered Lutha, and what he had overheard in
the inn at Burgova was sufficient evidence that the fate of Lutha
hung upon the prompt and energetic decisions of the man who sat upon
Lutha's throne for the next few days.

Had Leopold been the present incumbent Lutha would have been lost,
for that he would play directly into the hands of Austria was not to
be questioned. Were Von der Tann to seize the reins of government a
state of revolution would exist that would divide the state into two
bitter factions, weaken its defense, and give Austria what she most
desired--a plausible pretext for intervention.

Lutha's only hope lay in united defense of her liberties under the
leadership of the one man whom all acknowledged king--Leopold. Very
well, Barney Custer, of Beatrice, would be Leopold for a few days,
since the real Leopold had proven himself incompetent to meet the
emergency.

General Petko, the Serbian minister to Lutha, brought to the
audience the memory of a series of unpleasant encounters with the
king. Leopold had never exerted himself to hide his pro-Austrian
sentiments. Austria was a powerful country--Serbia, a relatively
weak neighbor. Leopold, being a royal snob, had courted the favor of
the emperor and turned up his nose at Serbia. The general was
prepared for a repetition of the veiled affronts that Leopold
delighted in according him; but this time he brought with him a
reply that for two years he had been living in the hope of some day
being able to deliver to the young monarch he so cordially despised.

It was an ultimatum from his government--an ultimatum couched in
terms from which all diplomatic suavity had been stripped. If Barney
Custer, of Beatrice, could have read it he would have smiled,

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