The Mad King

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 182

toward her.

"What is it?" he asked. "What is the matter?"

For a moment he had forgotten the part that he had been
playing--forgot that the Princess Emma was ignorant of his identity.
He had come to her to share with her the happiness of the hour--the
glory of the victorious arms of Lutha. For a time he had almost
forgotten that he was not the king, and now he was forgetting that
he was not Barney Custer to the girl who stood before him with
misery and hopelessness writ so large upon her countenance.

For a brief instant the girl did not reply. She was weighing the
problematical value of an attempt to enlist the king in the cause of
the American. Leopold had shown a spark of magnanimity when he had
written a pardon for Mr. Custer; might he not rise again above his
petty jealousy and save the American's life? It was a forlorn hope
to the woman who knew the true Leopold so well; but it was a hope.

"What is the matter?" the king repeated.

"I have just received word that Prince Peter has ignored your
commands, sire," replied the girl, "and that Mr. Custer is to be
shot tomorrow."

Barney's eyes went wide with incredulity. Here was a pretty pass,
indeed! The princess came close to him and seized his arm.

"You promised, sire," she said, "that he would not be harmed--you
gave your royal word. You can save him. You have an army at your
command. Do not forget that he once saved you."

The note of appeal in her voice and the sorrow in her eyes gave
Barney Custer a twinge of compunction. The necessity for longer
concealing his identity in so far as the salvation of Lutha was
concerned seemed past; but the American had intended to carry the
deception to the end.

He had given the matter much thought, but he could find no grounds
for belief that Emma von der Tann would be any happier in the
knowledge that her future husband had had nothing to do with the
victory of his army. If she was doomed to a life at his side, why
not permit her the grain of comfort that she might derive from the
memory of her husband's achievements upon the battlefield of
Lustadt? Why rob her of that little?

But now, face to face with her, and with the evidence of her
suffering so plain before him, Barney's intentions wavered. Like
most fighting men, he was tender in his dealings with women. And now
the last straw came in the form

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