“For three hundred years the Von der Tanns have labored and fought for the welfare of Lutha. It was a Von der Tann that put the first Rubinroth king upon the throne of Lutha. To the last they were loyal to the former dynasty while that dynasty was loyal to Lutha. Only when the king attempted to sell the freedom of his people to a powerful neighbor did the Von der Tanns rise against him.
“Sire! the Von der Tanns have always been loyal to the house of Rubinroth. And but a single thing rises superior within their breasts to that loyalty, and that is their loyalty to Lutha.” He paused for an instant before concluding. “And I, sire, am a Von der Tann.”
There could be no mistaking the old man’s meaning. So long as Leopold was loyal to his people and their interests Ludwig von der Tann would be loyal to Leopold. The king was cowed. He was very much afraid of this grim old warrior. He chafed beneath his censure.
“You are always scolding me,” he cried irritably. “I am getting tired of it. And now you threaten me. Do you call that loyalty? Do you call it loyalty to refuse to compel your daughter to keep her plighted troth? If you wish to prove your loyalty command the Princess Emma to fulfil the promise you made my father—command her to wed me at once.”
Von der Tann looked the king straight in the eyes.
“I cannot do that,” he said. “She has told me that she will kill herself rather than wed with your majesty. She is all I have left, sire. What good would be accomplished by robbing me of her if you could not gain her by the act? Win her confidence and love, sire. It may be done. Thus only may happiness result to you and to her.”
“You see,” exclaimed the king, “what your loyalty amounts to! I believe that you are saving her for the impostor—I have heard as much hinted at before this. Nor do I doubt that she would gladly connive with the fellow if she thought there was a chance of his seizing the throne.”
Von der Tann paled. For the first time righteous indignation and anger got the better of him. He took a step toward the king.
“Stop!” he commanded. “No man, not even my king, may speak such words to a Von der Tann.”
In an antechamber just outside the room a man sat near the door that led into the apartment where the king and his chancellor quarreled. He had been straining his ears to catch the conversation which he could hear rising and falling in the adjoining chamber, but till now he had been unsuccessful. Then came Prince Ludwig’s last words booming loudly through the paneled door, and the man smiled. He was Count Zellerndorf, the Austrian minister to Lutha.
The king’s outraged majesty goaded him to an angry retort.
“You forget yourself, Prince von der Tann,” he cried. “Leave our presence. When we again desire to be insulted we shall send for you.”
As the chancellor passed into the antechamber Count Zellerndorf rose and greeted him warmly, almost effusively. Von der Tann returned his salutations with courtesy but with no answering warmth. Then he passed on out of the palace.