“Somewhere in this, prince,” concluded Maenck, “there must lie the seed of fortune for you and me.”
Peter nodded. “Yes,” he mused, “there must.”
For a time both men were buried in thought. Suddenly Maenck snapped his fingers. “I have it!” he cried. He bent toward Prince Peter’s ear and whispered his plan. When he was done the Blentz prince grasped his hand.
“Just the thing, Maenck!” he cried. “Just the thing. Leopold will never again listen to idle gossip directed against our loyalty. If I know him—and who should know him better—he will heap honors upon you, my Maenck; and as for me, he will at least forgive me and take me back into his confidence. Lose no time now, my friend. We are free now to go and come, since the king’s soldiers have been withdrawn.”
In the garden back of the castle an old man was busy digging a hole. It was a long, narrow hole, and, when it was completed, nearly four feet deep. It looked like a grave. When he had finished the old man hobbled to a shed that leaned against the south wall. Here were boards, tools, and a bench. It was the castle workshop. The old man selected a number of rough pine boards. These he measured and sawed, fitted and nailed, working all the balance of the night. By dawn, he had a long, narrow box, just a trifle smaller than the hole he had dug in the garden. The box resembled a crude coffin. When it was quite finished, including a cover, he dragged it out into the garden and set it upon two boards that spanned the hole, so that it rested precisely over the excavation.
All these precautions methodically made, he returned to the castle. In a little storeroom he searched for and found an ax. With his thumb he felt of the edge—for an ax it was marvelously sharp. The old fellow grinned and shook his head, as one who appreciates in anticipation the consummation of a good joke. Then he crept noiselessly through the castle’s corridors and up the spiral stairway in the north tower. In one hand was the sharp ax.
The moment Lieutenant Butzow had reached Lustadt he had gone directly to Prince von der Tann; but the moment his message had been delivered to the chancellor he sought out the chancellor’s daughter, to tell her all that had occurred at Blentz.
“I saw but little of Mr. Custer,” he said. “He was very quiet. I think all that he has been through has unnerved him. He was slightly wounded in the left leg. The king was wounded in the breast. His majesty conducted himself in a most valiant and generous manner. Wounded, he lay upon his stomach in the courtyard of the castle and defended Mr. Custer, who was, of course, unarmed. The king shot three of Prince Peter’s soldiers who were attempting to assassinate Mr. Custer.”
Emma von der Tann smiled. It was evident that Lieutenant Butzow had not discovered the deception that had been practiced upon him in common with all Lutha—she being the only exception. It seemed incredible that this good friend of the American had not seen in the heroism of the man who wore the king’s clothes the attributes and ear-marks of Barney Custer. She glowed with pride at the narration of his heroism, though she suffered with him because of his wound.