“You said that Leopold was dead,” he said accusingly.
Peter regained his self-control quickly.
“Coblich is excited,” he explained. “He means that the impostor has stolen the body of the king that Coblich and Maenck had discovered and were bring to Lustadt.”
Von der Tann looked troubled.
He knew not what to make of the series of wild tales that had come to his ears within the past hour. He had hoped that the young man whom he had last seen in the king’s apartments was the true Leopold. He would have been glad to have served such a one, but there had been many inexplicable occurrences which tended to cast a doubt upon the man’s claims—and yet, had he ever claimed to be the king? It suddenly occurred to the old prince that he had not. On the contrary he had repeatedly stated to Prince Ludwig’s daughter and to Lieutenant Butzow that he was not Leopold.
It seemed that they had all been so anxious to believe him king that they had forced the false position upon him, and now if he had indeed committed the atrocity that Coblich charged against him, who could wonder? With less provocation men had before attempted to seize thrones by more dastardly means.
Peter of Blentz was speaking.
“Let the coronation proceed,” he cried, “that Lutha may have a true king to frustrate the plans of the impostor and the traitors who had supported him.”
He cast a meaning glance at Prince von der Tann.
There were many cries for Peter of Blentz. “Let’s have done with treason, and place upon the throne of Lutha one whom we know to be both a Luthanian and sane. Down with the mad king! Down with the impostor!”
Peter turned to ascend the chancel steps.
Von der Tann still hesitated. Below him upon one side of the aisle were massed his own retainers. Opposite them were the men of the Regent, and dividing the two the parallel ranks of Horse Guards stretched from the chancel down the broad aisle to the great doors. These were strongly for the impostor, if impostor he was, who had led them to victory over the men of the Blentz faction.
Von der Tann knew that they would fight to the last ditch for their hero should he come to claim the crown. Yet how would they fight—to which side would they cleave, were he to attempt to frustrate the design of the Regent to seize the throne of Lutha?
Already Peter of Blentz had approached the bishop, who, eager to propitiate whoever seemed most likely to become king, gave the signal for the procession that was to mark the solemn bearing of the crown of Lutha up the aisle to the chancel.
Outside the cathedral there was the sudden blare of trumpets. The great doors swung violently open, and the entire throng were upon their feet in an instant as a trooper of the Royal Horse shouted: “The king! The king! Make way for Leopold of Lutha!”