THE GRATITUDE OF A KING
At the cry silence fell upon the throng. Every head was turned toward the great doors through which the head of a procession was just visible. It was a grim looking procession—the head of it, at least.
There were four khaki-clad trumpeters from the Royal Horse Guards, the gay and resplendent uniforms which they should have donned today conspicuous for their absence. From their brazen bugles sounded another loud fanfare, and then they separated, two upon each side of the aisle, and between them marched three men.
One was tall, with gray eyes and had a reddish-brown beard. He was fully clothed in the coronation robes of Leopold. Upon his either hand walked the others—Lieutenant Butzow and a gray-eyed, smooth-faced, square-jawed stranger.
Behind them marched the balance of the Royal Horse Guards that were not already on duty within the cathedral. As the eyes of the multitude fell upon the man in the coronation robes there were cries of: “The king! Impostor!” and “Von der Tann’s puppet!”
“Denounce him!” whispered one of Peter’s henchmen in his master’s ear.
The Regent moved closer to the aisle, that he might meet the impostor at the foot of the chancel steps. The procession was moving steadily up the aisle.
Among the clan of Von der Tann a young girl with wide eyes was bending forward that she might have a better look at the face of the king. As he came opposite her her eyes filled with horror, and then she saw the eyes of the smooth-faced stranger at the king’s side. They were brave, laughing eyes, and as they looked straight into her own the truth flashed upon her, and the girl gave a gasp of dismay as she realized that the king of Lutha and the king of her heart were not one and the same.
At last the head of the procession was almost at the foot of the chancel steps. There were murmurs of: “It is not the king,” and “Who is this new impostor?”
Leopold’s eyes were searching the faces of the close-packed nobility about the chancel. At last they fell upon the face of Peter. The young man halted not two paces from the Regent. The man went white as the king’s eyes bored straight into his miserable soul.
“Peter of Blentz,” cried the young man, “as God is your judge, tell the truth today. Who am I?”
The legs of the Prince Regent trembled. He sank upon his knees, raising his hands in supplication toward the other. “Have pity on me, your majesty, have pity!” he cried.
“Who am I, man?” insisted the king.
“You are Leopold Rubinroth, sire, by the grace of God, king of Lutha,” cried the frightened man. “Have mercy on an old man, your majesty.”
“Wait! Am I mad? Was I ever mad?”
“As God is my judge, sire, no!” replied Peter of Blentz.
Leopold turned to Butzow.
“Remove the traitor from our presence,” he commanded, and at a word from the lieutenant a dozen guardsmen seized the trembling man and hustled him from the cathedral amid hisses and execrations.