“Let me go!” she whispered. “Let me go—the king!”
Barney sprang to his feet and, turning, faced Leopold. The king had gone quite white.
“Failing to rob me of my crown,” he cried in a trembling voice, “you now seek to rob me of my betrothed! Go to your father at once, and as for you—you shall learn what it means for you thus to meddle in the affairs of kings.”
Barney saw the terrible position in which his love had placed the Princess Emma. His only thought now was for her. Bowing low before her he spoke so that the king might hear, yet as though his words were for her ears alone.
“Your highness knows the truth, now,” he said, “and that after all I am not the king. I can only ask that you will forgive me the deception. Now go to your father as the king commands.”
Slowly the girl turned away. Her heart was torn between love for this man, and her duty toward the other to whom she had been betrothed in childhood. The hereditary instinct of obedience to her sovereign was strong within her, and the bonds of custom and society held her in their relentless shackles. With a sob she passed up the corridor, curtsying to the king as she passed him.
When she had gone Leopold turned to the American. There was an evil look in the little gray eyes of the monarch.
“You may go your way,” he said coldly. “We shall give you forty-eight hours to leave Lutha. Should you ever return your life shall be the forfeit.”
The American kept back the hot words that were ready upon the end of his tongue. For her sake he must bow to fate. With a slight inclination of his head toward Leopold he wheeled and resumed his way toward his quarters.
Half an hour later as he was about to descend to the courtyard where a trooper of the Royal Horse held his waiting mount, Butzow burst suddenly into his room.
“For God’s sake,” cried the lieutenant, “get out of this. The king has changed his mind, and there is an officer of the guard on his way here now with a file of soldiers to place you under arrest. Leopold swears that he will hang you for treason. Princess Emma has spurned him, and he is wild with rage.”
The dismal November twilight had given place to bleak night as two men cantered from the palace courtyard and turned their horses’ heads northward toward Lutha’s nearest boundary. All night they rode, stopping at daylight before a distant farm to feed and water their mounts and snatch a mouthful for themselves. Then onward once again they pressed in their mad flight.
Now that day had come they caught occasional glimpses of a body of horsemen far behind them, but the border was near, and their start such that there was no danger of their being overtaken.
“For the thousandth time, Butzow,” said one of the men, “will you turn back before it is too late?”
But the other only shook his head obstinately, and so they came to the great granite monument which marks the boundary between Lutha and her powerful neighbor upon the north.