“Give this to your lieutenant,” he said, “and tell him to hand it to Prince Peter before dawn tomorrow. Do not fail.”
A moment later the three were riding down the winding road toward Blentz. Barney had no further need of the officer who rode with them. He would be glad to be rid of him, for he anticipated that the fellow might find ample opportunity to betray them as they passed through the Austrian lines, which they must do to reach Lustadt.
He had told the captain that they were going to Tann in order that, should the man find opportunity to institute pursuit, he might be thrown off the track. The Austrian sentries were no great distance ahead when Barney ordered a halt.
“Dismount,” he directed the captain, leaping to the ground himself at the same time. “Put your hands behind your back.”
The officer did as he was bid, and Barney bound his wrists securely with a strap and buckle that he had removed from the cantle of his saddle as he rode. Then he led him off the road among some weeds and compelled him to lie down, after which he bound his ankles together and stuffed a gag in his mouth, securing it in place with a bit of stick and the chinstrap from the man’s helmet. The threat of the revolver kept Captain Krantzwort silent and obedient throughout the hasty operations.
“Good-bye, captain,” whispered Barney, “and let me suggest that you devote the time until your discovery and release in pondering the value of winning your king’s confidence in the future. Had you chosen your associates more carefully in the past, this need not have occurred.”
Barney unsaddled the captain’s horse and turned him loose, then he remounted and, with the princess at his side, rode down toward Blentz.
A NEW KING IN LUTHA
As the two riders approached the edge of the village of Blentz a sentry barred their way. To his challenge the American replied that they were “friends from the castle.”
“Advance,” directed the sentry, “and give the countersign.”
Barney rode to the fellow’s side, and leaning from the saddle whispered in his ear the word “Slankamen.”
Would it pass them out as it had passed Maenck in? Barney scarcely breathed as he awaited the result of his experiment. The soldier brought his rifle to present and directed them to pass. With a sigh of relief that was almost audible the two rode into the village and the Austrian lines.
Once within they met with no further obstacle until they reached the last line of sentries upon the far side of the town. It was with more confidence that Barney gave the countersign here, nor was he surprised that the soldier passed them readily; and now they were upon the highroad to Lustadt, with nothing more to bar their way.