“Von der Tann’s hatred of Peter of Blentz is well known. No man in Lutha believes that he would permit you to have any intercourse with Peter. I have brought from Blentz an invitation to your majesty to honor the Blentz prince with your presence as a guest for the ensuing week. Accept it, your majesty.
“Nothing could more conclusively prove to the most skeptical that you are still the king, and that Von der Tann, nor any other, may not dare to dictate to you. It will be the most splendid stroke of statesmanship that you could achieve at the present moment.”
For an instant the king stood in thought. He still feared Peter of Blentz as the devil is reputed to fear holy water, though for converse reasons. Yet he was very angry with Von der Tann. It would indeed be an excellent way to teach the presumptuous chancellor his place.
Leopold almost smiled as he thought of the chagrin with which Prince Ludwig would receive the news that he had gone to Blentz as the guest of Peter. It was the last impetus that was required by his weak, vindictive nature to press it to a decision.
“Very well,” he said, “I will go tomorrow.”
It was late the following day that Prince von der Tann received in his castle in the Old Forest word that an Austrian army had crossed the Luthanian frontier—the neutrality of Lutha had been violated. The old chancellor set out immediately for Lustadt. At the palace he sought an interview with the king only to learn that Leopold had departed earlier in the day to visit Peter of Blentz.
There was but one thing to do and that was to follow the king to Blentz. Some action must be taken immediately—it would never do to let this breach of treaty pass unnoticed.
The Serbian minister who had sent word to the chancellor of the invasion by the Austrian troops was closeted with him for an hour after his arrival at the palace. It was clear to both these men that the hand of Zellerndorf was plainly in evidence in both the important moves that had occurred in Lutha within the past twenty-four hours—the luring of the king to Blentz and the entrance of Austrian soldiery into Lutha.
Following his interview with the Serbian minister Von der Tann rode toward Blentz with only his staff in attendance. It was long past midnight when the lights of the town appeared directly ahead of the little party. They rode at a trot along the road which passes through the village to wind upward again toward the ancient feudal castle that looks down from its hilltop upon the town.
At the edge of the village Von der Tann was thunderstruck by a challenge from a sentry posted in the road, nor was his dismay lessened when he discovered that the man was an Austrian.
“What is the meaning of this?” he cried angrily. “What are Austrian soldiers doing barring the roads of Lutha to the chancellor of Lutha?”
The sentry called an officer. The latter was extremely suave. He regretted the incident, but his orders were most positive—no one could be permitted to pass through the lines without an order from the general commanding. He would go at once to the general and see if he could procure the necessary order. Would the prince be so good as to await his return? Von der Tann turned on the young officer, his face purpling with rage.