The Mad King

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 200

he had finished the old man
hobbled to a shed that leaned against the south wall. Here were
boards, tools, and a bench. It was the castle workshop. The old man
selected a number of rough pine boards. These he measured and sawed,
fitted and nailed, working all the balance of the night. By dawn, he
had a long, narrow box, just a trifle smaller than the hole he had
dug in the garden. The box resembled a crude coffin. When it was
quite finished, including a cover, he dragged it out into the garden
and set it upon two boards that spanned the hole, so that it rested
precisely over the excavation.

All these precautions methodically made, he returned to the castle.
In a little storeroom he searched for and found an ax. With his
thumb he felt of the edge--for an ax it was marvelously sharp. The
old fellow grinned and shook his head, as one who appreciates in
anticipation the consummation of a good joke. Then he crept
noiselessly through the castle's corridors and up the spiral
stairway in the north tower. In one hand was the sharp ax.

The moment Lieutenant Butzow had reached Lustadt he had gone
directly to Prince von der Tann; but the moment his message had been
delivered to the chancellor he sought out the chancellor's daughter,
to tell her all that had occurred at Blentz.

"I saw but little of Mr. Custer," he said. "He was very quiet. I
think all that he has been through has unnerved him. He was slightly
wounded in the left leg. The king was wounded in the breast. His
majesty conducted himself in a most valiant and generous manner.
Wounded, he lay upon his stomach in the courtyard of the castle and
defended Mr. Custer, who was, of course, unarmed. The king shot
three of Prince Peter's soldiers who were attempting to assassinate
Mr. Custer."

Emma von der Tann smiled. It was evident that Lieutenant Butzow had
not discovered the deception that had been practiced upon him in
common with all Lutha--she being the only exception. It seemed
incredible that this good friend of the American had not seen in the
heroism of the man who wore the king's clothes the attributes and
ear-marks of Barney Custer. She glowed with pride at the narration
of his heroism, though she suffered with him because of his wound.

It was not yet noon when the detachment of the Royal Horse arrived
in Lustadt from Blentz. At their head rode one whom all upon the
streets of the capital greeted enthusiastically as king.

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I shall keep the throne.