“I will pass nowhere within the boundaries of Lutha,” he said, “upon the order of an Austrian. You may tell your general that my only regret is that I have not with me tonight the necessary force to pass through his lines to my king—another time I shall not be so handicapped,” and Ludwig, Prince von der Tann, wheeled his mount and spurred away in the direction of Lustadt, at his heels an extremely angry and revengeful staff.
A TRAP IS SPRUNG
Long before Prince von der Tann reached Lustadt he had come to the conclusion that Leopold was in virtue a prisoner in Blentz. To prove his conclusion he directed one of his staff to return to Blentz and attempt to have audience with the king.
“Risk anything,” he instructed the officer to whom he had entrusted the mission. “Submit, if necessary, to the humiliation of seeking an Austrian pass through the lines to the castle. See the king at any cost and deliver this message to him and to him alone and secretly. Tell him my fears, and that if I do not have word from him within twenty-four hours I shall assume that he is indeed a prisoner.
“I shall then direct the mobilization of the army and take such steps as seem fit to rescue him and drive the invaders from the soil of Lutha. If you do not return I shall understand that you are held prisoner by the Austrians and that my worst fears have been realized.”
But Prince Ludwig was one who believed in being forehanded and so it happened that the orders for the mobilization of the army of Lutha were issued within fifteen minutes of his return to Lustadt. It would do no harm, thought the old man, with a grim smile, to get things well under way a day ahead of time. This accomplished, he summoned the Serbian minister, with what purpose and to what effect became historically evident several days later. When, after twenty-four hours’ absence, his aide had not returned from Blentz, the chancellor had no regrets for his forehandedness.
In the castle of Peter of Blentz the king of Lutha was being entertained royally. He was told nothing of the attempt of his chancellor to see him, nor did he know that a messenger from Prince von der Tann was being held a prisoner in the camp of the Austrians in the village. He was surrounded by the creatures of Prince Peter and by Peter’s staunch allies, the Austrian minister and the Austrian officers attached to the expeditionary force occupying the town. They told him that they had positive information that the Serbians already had crossed the frontier into Lutha, and that the presence of the Austrian troops was purely for the protection of Lutha.
It was not until the morning following the rebuff of Prince von der Tann that Peter of Blentz, Count Zellerndorf and Maenck heard of the occurrence. They were chagrined by the accident, for they were not ready to deliver their final stroke. The young officer of the guard had, of course, but followed his instructions—who would have thought that old Von der Tann would come to Blentz! That he suspected their motives seemed apparent, and now that his rebuff at the gates had aroused his ire and, doubtless, crystallized his suspicions, they might find in him a very ugly obstacle to the fruition of their plans.