“Count Zellerndorf,” said the American, “you were doubtless aware of the embarrassment under which the king of Lutha was compelled at Blentz to witness the entry of a foreign army within his domain. But we are not now at Blentz. We have summoned you that you may receive from us, and transmit to your emperor, the expression of our surprise and dismay at the unwarranted violation of Luthanian neutrality.”
“But, your majesty—” interrupted the Austrian.
“But nothing, your excellency,” snapped the American. “The moment for diplomacy is passed; the time for action has come. You will oblige us by transmitting to your government at once a request that every Austrian soldier now in Lutha be withdrawn by noon tomorrow.”
Zellerndorf looked his astonishment.
“Are you mad, sire?” he cried. “It will mean war!”
“It is what Austria has been looking for,” snapped the American, “and what people look for they usually get, especially if they chance to be looking for trouble. When can you expect a reply from Vienna?”
“By noon, your majesty,” replied the Austrian, “but are you irretrievably bound to your present policy? Remember the power of Austria, sire. Think of your throne. Think—”
“We have thought of everything,” interrupted Barney. “A throne means less to us than you may imagine, count; but the honor of Lutha means a great deal.”
At five o’clock that afternoon the sidewalks bordering Margaretha Street were crowded with promenaders. The little tables before the cafes were filled. Nearly everyone spoke of the great war and of the peril which menaced Lutha. Upon many a lip was open disgust at the supine attitude of Leopold of Lutha in the face of an Austrian invasion of his country. Discontent was open. It was ripening to something worse for Leopold than an Austrian invasion.
Presently a sergeant of the Royal Horse Guards cantered down the street from the palace. He stopped here and there, and, dismounting, tacked placards in conspicuous places. At the notice, and in each instance cheers and shouting followed the sergeant as he rode on to the next stop.
Now, at each point men and women were gathered, eagerly awaiting an explanation of the jubilation farther up the street. Those whom the sergeant passed called to him for an explanation, and not receiving it, followed in a quickly growing mob that filled Margaretha Street from wall to wall. When he dismounted he had almost to fight his way to the post or door upon which he was to tack the next placard. The crowd surged about him in its anxiety to read what the placard bore, and then, between the cheering and yelling, those in the front passed back to the crowd the tidings that filled them with so great rejoicing.
“Leopold has declared war on Austria!” “The king calls for volunteers!” “Long live the king!”