The Mad King

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 56

the fate that would doubtless befall her father
and his house were Peter of Blentz to become king of Lutha. Then,
too, there was the life of the little peasant boy. Was that to be
given up uselessly for a king with so mean a spirit that he would
not take a scepter when it was forced upon him?

And the people of Lutha? Were they to be further and continually
robbed and downtrodden beneath the heel of Peter's scoundrelly
officials because their true king chose to evade the
responsibilities that were his by birth?

For half an hour Barney pleaded and argued with the king, until he
infused in the weak character of the young man a part of his own
tireless enthusiasm and courage. Leopold commenced to take heart and
see things in a brighter and more engaging light. Finally he became
quite excited about the prospects, and at last Barney obtained a
willing promise from him that he would consent to being placed upon
his throne and would go to Lustadt at any time that Barney should
come for him with a force from the retainers of Prince Ludwig von
der Tann.

"Let us hope," cried the king, "that the luck of the reigning house
of Lutha has been at last restored. Not since my aunt, the Princess
Victoria, ran away with a foreigner has good fortune shone upon my
house. It was when my father was still a young man--before he had
yet come to the throne--and though his reign was marked with great
peace and prosperity for the people of Lutha, his own private
fortunes were most unhappy.

"My mother died at my birth, and the last days of my father's life
were filled with suffering from the cancer that was slowly killing
him. Let us pray, Herr Custer, that you have brought new life to the
fortunes of my house."

"Amen, your majesty," said Barney. "And now I'll be off for
Tann--there must not be a moment lost if we are to bring you to
Lustadt in time for the coronation. Herr Kramer will watch over you,
but as none here guesses your true identity you are safer here than
anywhere else in Lutha. Good-bye, your majesty. Be of good heart.
We'll have you on the road to Lustadt and the throne tomorrow
morning."

After Barney Custer had closed the door of the king's chamber behind
him and hurried down the corridor, the door of the room next the
king's opened quietly and a dark-visaged fellow, sallow and
small-eyed, emerged. Upon his lips was a smile of cunning
satisfaction, as he hastened

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