The Mad King

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 26

"His
highness, the prince, found the means to obtain service for me with
the new retinue that has replaced the old which permitted your
majesty's escape. There was another from Tann among the former
servants here.

"It was through his efforts that you escaped before, you will
recall. I have seen Fritz and learned from him the way, so that if
your majesty does not recall it it will make no difference, for I
know it well, having been over it three times already since I came
here, to be sure that when the time came that they should recapture
you I might lead you out quickly before they could slay you."

"You really think that they intend murdering me?"

"There is no doubt about it, your majesty," replied the old man.
"This very bottle"--Joseph touched the phial which Stein had left
upon the table--"contains the means whereby, through my hands, you
were to be slowly poisoned."

"Do you know what it is?"

"Bichloride of mercury, your majesty. One dose would have been
sufficient, and after a few days--perhaps a week--you would have
died in great agony."

Barney shuddered.

"But I am not the king, Joseph," said the young man, "so even had
they succeeded in killing me it would have profited them nothing."

Joseph shook his head sadly.

"Your majesty will pardon the presumption of one who loves him," he
said, "if he makes so bold as to suggest that your majesty must not
again deny that he is king. That only tends to corroborate the
contention of Prince Peter that your majesty is not--er, just sane,
and so, incompetent to rule Lutha. But we of Tann know differently,
and with the help of the good God we will place your majesty upon
the throne which Peter has kept from you all these years."

Barney sighed. They were determined that he should be king whether
he would or no. He had often thought he would like to be a king; but
now the realization of his boyish dreaming which seemed so imminent
bade fair to be almost anything than pleasant.

Barney suddenly realized that the old fellow was talking. He was
explaining how they might escape. It seemed that a secret passage
led from this very chamber to the vaults beneath the castle and from
there through a narrow tunnel below the moat to a cave in the
hillside far beyond the structure.

"They will not return again tonight to see your majesty," said
Joseph, "and so we had best make haste to leave at once. I have a
rope and swords in readiness. We shall need

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