The Mad King

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 75

then a brave man will sit upon the throne of Lutha, your

Barney laid his hand upon the shoulder of the other.

"It cannot be, my friend," he said. "There is more than a throne at
stake for me, but to win them both I could not do the thing you
suggest. If Leopold of Lutha lives he must be crowned tomorrow."

"And if he does not live?" asked Butzow.

Barney Custer shrugged his shoulders.

It was dusk when the two entered the palace grounds in Lustadt. The
sight of Barney threw the servants and functionaries of the royal
household into wild excitement and confusion. Men ran hither and
thither bearing the glad tidings that the king had returned.

Old von der Tann was announced within ten minutes after Barney
reached his apartments. He urged upon the American the necessity for
greater caution in the future.

"Your majesty's life is never safe while Peter of Blentz is abroad
in Lutha," cried he.

"It was to save your king from Peter that we rode from Lustadt last
night," replied Barney, but the old prince did not catch the double
meaning of the words.

While they talked a young officer of cavalry begged an audience. He
had important news for the king, he said. From him Barney learned
that Peter of Blentz had succeeded in recruiting a fair-sized army
in the lowlands. Two regiments of government infantry and a squadron
of cavalry had united forces with him, for there were those who
still accepted him as regent, believing his contention that the true
king was dead, and that he whose coronation was to be attempted was
but the puppet of old Von der Tann.

The morning of November 5 broke clear and cold. The old town of
Lustadt was awakened with a start at daybreak by the booming of
cannon. Mounted messengers galloped hither and thither through the
steep, winding streets. Troops, foot and horse, moved at the double
from the barracks along the King's Road to the fortifications which
guard the entrance to the city at the foot of Margaretha Street.

Upon the heights above the town Barney Custer and the old Prince von
der Tann stood surrounded by officers and aides watching the advance
of a skirmish line up the slopes toward Lustadt. Behind, the thin
line columns of troops were marching under cover of two batteries of
field artillery that Peter of Blentz had placed upon a wooden knoll
to the southeast of the city.

The guns upon the single fort that, overlooking the broad valley,
guarded the entire southern exposure of the city were

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