As the girl hastened toward the spot where the two had disappeared, she was startled to see three troopers of the palace cavalry headed by an officer break through the trees at a short distance from where the battle had waged. The four men ran rapidly toward her.
“What has happened here?” shouted the officer to Emma von der Tann; and then, as he came closer: “Gott! Can it be possible that it is your highness?”
The girl paid no attention to the officer. Instead, she hurried down the steep embankment toward the underbrush into which the two men had fallen. There was no sound from below, and no movement in the bushes to indicate that a moment before two desperately battling human beings had dropped among them.
The soldiers were close upon the girl’s heels, but it was she who first reached the two quiet figures that lay side by side upon the stony ground halfway down the hillside.
When the officer stopped beside her she was sitting on the ground holding the head of one of the combatants in her lap.
A little stream of blood trickled from a wound in the forehead. The officer stooped closer.
“He is dead?” he asked.
“The king is dead,” replied the Princess Emma von der Tann, a little sob in her voice.
“The king!” exclaimed the officer; and then, as he bent lower over the white face: “Leopold!”
The girl nodded.
“We were searching for him,” said the officer, “when we heard the shot.” Then, arising, he removed his cap, saying in a very low voice: “The king is dead. Long live the king!”
AN ANGRY KING
The soldiers stood behind their officer. None of them had ever seen Leopold of Lutha—he had been but a name to them—they cared nothing for him; but in the presence of death they were awed by the majesty of the king they had never known.
The hands of Emma von der Tann were chafing the wrists of the man whose head rested in her lap.
“Leopold!” she whispered. “Leopold, come back! Mad king you may have been, but still you were king of Lutha—my father’s king—my king.”
The girl nearly cried out in shocked astonishment as she saw the eyes of the dead king open. But Emma von der Tann was quick-witted. She knew for what purpose the soldiers from the palace were scouring the country.
Had she not thought the king dead she would have cut out her tongue rather than reveal his identity to these soldiers of his great enemy. Now she saw that Leopold lived, and she must undo the harm she had innocently wrought. She bent lower over Barney’s face, trying to hide it from the soldiers.
“Go away, please!” she called to them. “Leave me with my dead king. You are Peter’s men. You do not care for Leopold, living or dead. Go back to your new king and tell him that this poor young man can never more stand between him and the throne.”