“By George! I’ll attend to that this minute. We’ll see what stuff this yellow-haired boy is made of.”
He mounted the stairs without sound. He grasped the handle of the door, boldly pushed it open, and entered, closing the door and placing his back against it.
The instant he saw the intruder the vintner snatched a pistol from the drawer in the table and leveled it at Carmichael.
“Surely your majesty will not shoot an old friend?”
[Illustration: “Surely your Majesty will not shoot an old friend?”]
The vintner slowly lowered the pistol till it touched the table; then he released it.
“That is better, your Majesty.”
“Why do you call me that?”
“Certainly I do not utter it as a compliment,” retorted Carmichael dryly.
“You speak positively.”
“With absolute authority on the subject, sire. Your face was familiar, but I failed at first to place it rightly. It was only after you had duped me into going after the veiled lady that I had any real suspicion. You are Frederick Leopold of Jugendheit.”
“I shall not deny it further,” proudly. “And take care how you speak to me, since I admit my identity.”
“Oho!” Carmichael gave rein to his laughter. “This is Ehrenstein; here I shall talk to you as I please.”
The king reddened, and his hand closed again over the pistol.
“I have saved your majesty twice from death. You force me to recall it to your mind.”
The king had the grace to lower his eyes.
“The first time was at Bonn. Don’t you recollect the day when an American took you out of the Rhine, an American who did not trouble himself to come round and ask for your thanks, who, in truth, did not learn till days after what an important person you were, or were going to be?” There was a bite in every word, for Carmichael felt that he had been ill-treated.
“For that moment, Herr, I thank you.”
“And for that in the garden below?”
“For that also. Now, why are you here? You have not come for the purpose of recalling these two disagreeable incidents to my mind.”
“No.” Carmichael went over to the table, his jaws set and no kindly spirit in his eyes. “No, I have another purpose.” He bent over the table, and with his face close to that of the king, “I demand to know what your intentions are toward that friendless goose-girl.”
“And what is that to you?” said the king, the smoke of anger in his eyes.
“It is this much: if you have acted toward her otherwise than honorably—Well!”
“Go on; you interest me!”
“Well, I promise to break every bone in your kingly body. In this room it is man to man; I recognize no king, only the physical being.”
The king pushed aside the table, furious. No living being had ever spoken to him like that before. He swung the flat of his hand toward Carmichael’s face. The latter caught the hand by the wrist and bore down upon it. The king was no weakling. There was a struggle, and Carmichael found himself well occupied for a time. But his age and build were in his favor, and presently he jammed the king to the wall and pinioned his arms.