“I cannot give you up now,” she said simply. “I have tried to be loyal to Leopold and the promise that my father made his king when I was only a little girl; but since I thought that you were to be shot, I have wished a thousand times that I had gone with you to America two years ago. Take me with you now, Barney. We can send Lieutenant Butzow to rescue the king, and before he has returned we can be safe across the Serbian frontier.”
The American shook his head.
“I got the king into this mess and I must get him out,” he said. “He may deserve to be shot, but it is up to me to prevent it, if I can. And there is your father to consider. If Butzow rides to Blentz and rescues the king, it may be difficult to get him back to Lustadt without the truth of his identity and mine becoming known. With me there, the change can be effected easily, and not even Butzow need know what has happened.
“If the people should guess that it was not Leopold who won the battle of Lustadt there might be the devil to pay, and your father would go down along with the throne. No, I must stay until Leopold is safe in Lustadt. But there is a hope for us. I may be able to wrest from Leopold his sanction of our marriage. I shall not hesitate to use threats to get it, and I rather imagine that he will be in such a terror-stricken condition that he will assent to any terms for his release from Blentz. If he gives me such a paper, Emma, will you marry me?”
Perhaps there never had been a stranger proposal than this; but to neither did it seem strange. For two years each had known the love of the other. The girl’s betrothal to the king had prevented an avowal of their love while Barney posed in his own identity. Now they merely accepted the conditions that had existed for two years as though a matter of fact which had been often discussed between them.
“Of course I’ll marry you,” said the princess. “Why in the world would I want you to take me to America otherwise?”
As Barney Custer took her in his arms he was happier than he had ever before been in all his life, and so, too, was the Princess Emma von der Tann.
LEOPOLD WAITS FOR DAWN
After the American had shoved him through the secret doorway into the tower room of the castle of Blentz, Leopold had stood for several minutes waiting for the next command from his captor. Presently, hearing no sound other than that of his own breathing, the king ventured to speak. He asked the American what he purposed doing with him next.
There was no reply. For another minute the king listened intently; then he raised his hands and removed the bandage from his eyes. He looked about him. The room was vacant except for himself. He recognized it as the one in which he had spent ten years of his life as a prisoner. He shuddered. What had become of the American? He approached the door and listened. Beyond the panels he could hear the two soldiers on guard there conversing. He called to them.