Butzow smiled as he turned with his troopers at his back to execute this most welcome of commissions; but in a moment he was again at Barney’s side.
“They have fled, your majesty,” he said. “Shall I ride to Blentz after them?”
“Let them go,” replied the American, and then, with his retinue about him the new king of Lutha passed down the broad aisle of the cathedral of Lustadt and took his way to the royal palace between ranks of saluting soldiery backed by cheering thousands.
THE KING’S GUESTS
Once within the palace Barney sought the seclusion of a small room off the audience chamber. Here he summoned Butzow.
“Lieutenant,” said the American, “for the sake of a woman, a dead child and an unhappy king I have become dictator of Lutha for forty-eight hours; but at noon upon the fifth this farce must cease. Then we must place the true Leopold upon the throne, or a new dictator must replace me.
“In vain I have tried to convince you that I am not the king, and today in the cathedral so great was the temptation to take advantage of the odd train of circumstances that had placed a crown within my reach that I all but surrendered to it—not for the crown of gold, Butzow, but for an infinitely more sacred diadem which belongs to him to whom by right of birth and lineage, belongs the crown of Lutha. I do not ask you to understand—it is not necessary—but this you must know and believe: that I am not Leopold, and that the true Leopold lies in hiding in the sanatorium at Tafelberg, from which you and I, Butzow, must fetch him to Lustadt before noon on the fifth.”
“But, sire—” commenced Butzow, when Barney raised his hand.
“Enough of that, Butzow!” he cried almost irritably. “I am sick of being ‘sired’ and ’majestied’—my name is Custer. Call me that when others are not present. Believe what you will, but ride with me in secrecy to Tafelberg tonight, and together we shall bring back Leopold of Lutha. Then we may call Prince Ludwig into our confidence, and none need ever know of the substitution.
“I doubt if many had a sufficiently close view of me today to realize the trick that I have played upon them, and if they note a difference they will attribute it to the change in apparel, for we shall see to it that the king is fittingly garbed before we exhibit him to his subjects, while hereafter I shall continue in khaki, which becomes me better than ermine.”
Butzow shook his head.
“King or dictator,” he said, “it is all the same, and I must obey whatever commands you see fit to give, and so I will ride to Tafelberg tonight, though what we shall find there I cannot imagine, unless there are two Leopolds of Lutha. But shall we also find another royal ring upon the finger of this other king?”
Barney smiled. “You’re a typical hard-headed Dutchman, Butzow,” he said.