The Mad King

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 185

he had spent ten years of his life
as a prisoner. He shuddered. What had become of the American? He
approached the door and listened. Beyond the panels he could hear
the two soldiers on guard there conversing. He called to them.

"What do you want?" shouted one of the men through the closed door.

"I want Prince Peter!" yelled the king. "Send him at once!"

The soldiers laughed.

"He wants Prince Peter," they mocked. "Wouldn't you rather have us
send the king to you?" they asked.

"I am the king!" yelled Leopold. "I am the king! Open the door,
pigs, or it will go hard with you! I shall have you both shot in the
morning if you do not open the door and fetch Prince Peter."

"Ah!" exclaimed one of the soldiers. "Then there will be three of
us shot together."

Leopold went white. He had not connected the sentence of the
American with himself; but now, quite vividly, he realized what it
might mean to him if he failed before dawn to convince someone that
he was not the American. Peter would not be awake at so early an
hour, and if he had no better success with others than he was having
with these soldiers, it was possible that he might be led out and
shot before his identity was discovered. The thing was preposterous.
The king's knees became suddenly quite weak. They shook, and his
legs gave beneath his weight so that he had to lean against the back
of a chair to keep from falling.

Once more he turned to the soldiers. This time he pleaded with
them, begging them to carry word to Prince Peter that a terrible
mistake had been made, and that it was the king and not the American
who was confined in the death chamber. But the soldiers only laughed
at him, and finally threatened to come in and beat him if he again
interrupted their conversation.

It was a white and shaken prisoner that the officer of the guard
found when he entered the room at dawn. The man before him, his face
streaked with tears of terror and self-pity, fell upon his knees
before him, beseeching him to carry word to Peter of Blentz, that he
was the king. The officer drew away with a gesture of disgust.

"I might well believe from your actions that you are Leopold," he
said; "for, by Heaven, you do not act as I have always imagined the
American would act in the face of danger. He has a reputation for
bravery

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