The Mad King

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 55

of the royal ring of the kings of Lutha upon the third
finger of your left hand," replied Barney.

The king started up upon his elbow, his eyes wild with apprehension.

"It is not so," he cried. "It is a lie! I am not the king."

"Hush!" admonished Barney. "You have nothing to fear from me.
There are good friends and loyal subjects in plenty to serve and
protect your majesty, and place you upon the throne that has been
stolen from you. I have sworn to serve you. The old shopkeeper, Herr
Kramer, who brought me here, is an honest, loyal old soul. He would
die for you, your majesty. Trust us. Let us help you. Tomorrow,
Kramer tells me, Peter of Blentz is to have himself crowned as king
in the cathedral at Lustadt.

"Will you sit supinely by and see another rob you of your kingdom,
and then continue to rob and throttle your subjects as he has been
doing for the past ten years? No, you will not. Even if you do not
want the crown, you were born to the duties and obligations it
entails, and for the sake of your people you must assume them now."

"How am I to know that you are not another of the creatures of that
fiend of Blentz?" cried the king. "How am I to know that you will
not drag me back to the terrors of that awful castle, and to the
poisonous potions of the new physician Peter has employed to
assassinate me? I can trust none.

"Go away and leave me. I do not want to be king. I wish only to go
away as far from Lutha as I can get and pass the balance of my life
in peace and security. Peter may have the crown. He is welcome to
it, for all of me. All I ask is my life and my liberty."

Barney saw that while the king was evidently of sound mind, his was
not one of those iron characters and courageous hearts that would
willingly fight to the death for his own rights and the rights and
happiness of his people. Perhaps the long years of bitter
disappointment and misery, the tedious hours of imprisonment, and
the constant haunting fears for his life had reduced him to this
pitiable condition.

Whatever the cause, Barney Custer was determined to overcome the
man's aversion to assuming the duties which were rightly his, for in
his memory were the words of Emma von der Tann, in which she had
made plain to him

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