The Mad King

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 87

suffering--the crown that
has now placed the sentence of death upon me."

"Why not let him go?" suggested the trooper, who up to this time had
not spoken. "If we don't kill him, we can't be hanged for his
murder."

"Don't be too sure of that," exclaimed Maenck. "If he goes away and
never returns, what proof can we offer that we did not kill him,
should we be charged with the crime? And if we let him go, and later
he returns and gains his throne, he will see that we are hanged
anyway for treason.

"The safest thing to do is to put him where he at least cannot come
back to threaten us, and having done so upon the orders of Peter,
let the king's blood be upon Peter's head. I, at least, shall obey
my master, and let you two bear witness that I did the thing with my
own hand." So saying he drew his sword and crossed toward the king.

But Captain Ernst Maenck never reached his sovereign.

As the terrified shriek of the sorry monarch rang through the
interior of the desolate ruin another sound mingled with it,
half-drowning the piercing wail of terror.

It was the sharp crack of a revolver, and even as it spoke Maenck
lunged awkwardly forward, stumbled, and collapsed at Leopold's feet.
With a moan the king shrank back from the grisly thing that touched
his boot, and then two men were in the center of the room, and
things were happening with a rapidity that was bewildering.

About all that he could afterward recall with any distinctness was
the terrified face of Coblich, as he rushed past him toward a door
in the opposite side of the room, and the horrid leer upon the face
of the dead trooper, who foolishly, had made a move to draw his
revolver.


Within the cathedral at Lustadt excitement was at fever heat. It
lacked but two minutes of noon, and as yet no king had come to claim
the crown. Rumors were running riot through the close-packed
audience.

One man had heard the king's chamberlain report to Prince von der
Tann that the master of ceremonies had found the king's apartments
vacant when he had gone to urge the monarch to hasten his
preparations for the coronation.

Another had seen Butzow and two strangers galloping north through
the city. A third told of a little old man who had come to the king
with an urgent message.

Peter of Blentz and Prince Ludwig were talking in whispers at the
foot of the chancel steps. Peter ascended the steps and

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