The Mad King

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 189

no sound
other than the pawing of the horses outside the barbican and the
subdued conversation of their riders.

Presently the soldier emerged from the castle. With him was an
officer. The two went to the barbican. Again there was a parley
between the horsemen and the guard. Leopold could hear the officer
demanding terms. He would lower the drawbridge and admit them upon
conditions.

One of these the king overheard--it concerned an assurance of full
pardon for Peter of Blentz and the garrison; and again Leopold heard
the officer addressing someone as "your majesty."

Ah, the impostor was there in person. Ach, Gott! How Leopold of
Lutha hated him, and yet, in the hands of this American lay not only
his throne but his very life as well.

Evidently the negotiations proved unsuccessful for after a time the
party wheeled their horses from the gate and rode back toward
Blentz. As the sound of the iron-shod hoofs diminished in the
distance, with them diminished the hopes of the king.

When they ceased entirely his hopes were at an end, to be supplanted
by renewed terror at the turning of the knob of his prison door as
it swung open to admit Maenck and a squad of soldiers.

"Come!" ordered the captain. "The king has refused to intercede in
your behalf. When he returns with his army he will find your body at
the foot of the west wall in the courtyard."

With an ear-piercing shriek that rang through the grim old castle,
Leopold of Lutha flung his arms above his head and lunged forward
upon his face. Roughly the soldiers seized the unconscious man and
dragged him from the room.

Along the corridor they hauled him and down the winding stairs
within the north tower to the narrow slit of a door that opened upon
the courtyard. To the foot of the west wall they brought him,
tossing him brutally to the stone flagging. Here one of the soldiers
brought a flagon of water and dashed it in the face of the king. The
cold douche returned Leopold to a consciousness of the nearness of
his impending fate.

He saw the little squad of soldiers before him. He saw the cold,
gray wall behind, and, above, the cold, gray sky of early dawn. The
dismal men leaning upon their shadowy guns seemed unearthly specters
in the weird light of the hour that is neither God's day nor devil's
night. With difficulty two of them dragged Leopold to his feet.

Then the dismal men formed in line before him at the opposite side
of the courtyard.

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