At the sound of their approach the men sprang to their feet in alarm, and as many weapons as there were men leaped to view; but when they saw Barney’s companions they returned their pistols to their holsters, and at sight of Barney they pressed forward to inspect the prisoner.
“Who have we here?” shouted a big blond giant, who affected extremely gaudy colors in his selection of wearing apparel, and whose pistols and knife had their grips heavily ornamented with pearl and silver.
“A stranger in Lutha he calls himself,” replied one of Barney’s captors. “But from the sword I take it he is one of old Peter’s wolfhounds.”
“Well, he’s found the wolves at any rate,” replied the giant, with a wide grin at his witticism. “And if Yellow Franz is the particular wolf you’re after, my friend, why here I am,” he concluded, addressing the American with a leer.
“I’m after no one,” replied Barney. “I tell you I’m a stranger, and I lost my way in your infernal mountains. All I wish is to be set upon the right road to Tann, and if you will do that for me you shall be well paid for your trouble.”
The giant, Yellow Franz, had come quite close to Barney and was inspecting him with an expression of considerable interest. Presently he drew a soiled and much-folded paper from his breast. Upon one side was a printed notice, and at the corners bits were torn away as though the paper had once been tacked upon wood, and then torn down without removing the tacks.
At sight of it Barney’s heart sank. The look of the thing was all too familiar. Before the yellow one had commenced to read aloud from it Barney had repeated to himself the words he knew were coming.
“‘Gray eyes,’” read the brigand, “’brown hair, and a full, reddish-brown beard.’ Herman and Friedrich, my dear children, you have stumbled upon the richest haul in all Lutha. Down upon your marrow-bones, you swine, and rub your low-born noses in the dirt before your king.”
The others looked their surprise.
“The king?” one cried.
“Behold!” cried Yellow Franz. “Leopold of Lutha!”
He waved a ham-like hand toward Barney.
Among the rough men was a young smooth-faced boy, and now with wide eyes he pressed forward to get a nearer view of the wonderful person of a king.
“Take a good look at him, Rudolph,” cried Yellow Franz. “It is the first and will probably be the last time you will ever see a king. Kings seldom visit the court of their fellow monarch, Yellow Franz of the Black Mountains.
“Come, my children, remove his majesty’s sword, lest he fall and stick himself upon it, and then prepare the royal chamber, seeing to it that it be made so comfortable that Leopold will remain with us a long time. Rudolph, fetch food and water for his majesty, and see to it that the silver plates and the golden goblets are well scoured and polished up.”