“Do you not remember, sir,” he asked, “the great ruby that glared, blood-red from its center, and the four sets of golden wings that formed the setting? From the blood of Charlemagne was the ruby made, so history tells us, and the setting represented the protecting wings of the power of the kings of Lutha spread to the four points of the compass. Now your majesty must recall the royal ring, I am sure.”
Barney only shook his head, much to Joseph’s evident sorrow.
“Never mind the ring, Joseph,” said the young man. “Bring your rope and lead me to the floor above.”
“The floor above? But, your majesty, we cannot reach the vaults and tunnel by going upward!”
“You forget, Joseph, that we are going to fetch the Princess Emma first.”
“But she is not on the floor above us, sire; she is upon the same floor as we are,” insisted the old man, hesitating.
“Joseph, who do you think I am?” asked Barney.
“You are the king, my lord,” replied the old man.
“Then do as your king commands,” said the American sharply.
Joseph turned with dubious mutterings and approached the tiled panel at the left of the fireplace. Here he fumbled about for a moment until his fingers found the hidden catch that held the cunningly devised door in place. An instant later the panel swung inward before his touch, and standing to one side, the old fellow bowed low as he ushered Barney into the Stygian darkness of the space beyond their vision.
Joseph halted the young man just within the doorway, cautioning him against the danger of falling into the shaft, then he closed the panel, and a moment later had found the lantern he had hidden there and lighted it. The rays disclosed to the American the rough masonry of the interior of a narrow, well-built shaft. A rude ladder standing upon a narrow ledge beside him extended upward to lose itself in the shadows above. At its foot the top of another ladder was visible protruding through the opening from the floor beneath.
No sooner had Joseph’s lantern shown him the way than Barney was ascending the ladder toward the floor above. At the next landing he waited for the old man.
Joseph put out the light and placed the lantern where they could easily find it upon their return. Then he cautiously slipped the catch that held the panel in place and slowly opened the door until a narrow line of lesser darkness showed from without.
For a moment they stood in silence listening for any sound from the chamber beyond, but as nothing occurred to indicate that the apartment was occupied the old man opened the portal a trifle further, and finally far enough to permit his body to pass through. Barney followed him. They found themselves in a large, empty chamber, identical in size and shape with that which they had just quitted upon the floor below.
From this the two passed into the corridor beyond, and thence to the apartments at the far end of the wing, directly over those occupied by Emma von der Tann.