The Mad King

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 94

my fault that I shall always love you. Tell me
that you forgive me my part in the chain of strange circumstances
that deceived you into an acknowledgment of a love that you intended
for another. Forgive me, Emma!"

Down the corridor behind them a tall figure approached on silent,
noiseless feet. At sight of the two at the window seat it halted. It
was the king.

The girl looked up suddenly into the eyes of the American bending so
close above her.

"I can never forgive you," she cried, "for not being the king, for I
am betrothed to him--and I love you!"

Before she could prevent him, Barney Custer had taken her in his
arms, and though at first she made a pretense of attempting to
escape, at last she lay quite still. Her arms found their way about
the man's neck, and her lips returned the kisses that his were
showering upon her upturned mouth.

Presently her glance wandered above the shoulder of the American,
and of a sudden her eyes filled with terror, and, with a little gasp
of consternation, she struggled to free herself.

"Let me go!" she whispered. "Let me go--the king!"

Barney sprang to his feet and, turning, faced Leopold. The king had
gone quite white.

"Failing to rob me of my crown," he cried in a trembling voice, "you
now seek to rob me of my betrothed! Go to your father at once, and
as for you--you shall learn what it means for you thus to meddle in
the affairs of kings."

Barney saw the terrible position in which his love had placed the
Princess Emma. His only thought now was for her. Bowing low before
her he spoke so that the king might hear, yet as though his words
were for her ears alone.

"Your highness knows the truth, now," he said, "and that after all I
am not the king. I can only ask that you will forgive me the
deception. Now go to your father as the king commands."

Slowly the girl turned away. Her heart was torn between love for
this man, and her duty toward the other to whom she had been
betrothed in childhood. The hereditary instinct of obedience to her
sovereign was strong within her, and the bonds of custom and society
held her in their relentless shackles. With a sob she passed up the
corridor, curtsying to the king as she passed him.

When she had gone Leopold turned to the American. There was an evil
look in the little gray eyes of the monarch.

"You may go your way," he said coldly.

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