The Lad and the Lion

Chapter One

Edgar Rice Burroughs

A STATELY PILE of ancient masonry rose in a great park of linden trees and ash and oak. There were broad, formal gardens and great expanses of level sward. There were gleaming marble fountains throwing their shimmering waters into the warm sunlight. There were men in uniform standing guard—tall, splendid fellows. A sad-faced old man walked along neat graveled pathways through the gardens, past the marble fountains. He was a very erect old man whose unbending shoulders and firm gait belied his age, for he was really a very old man. At the old man’s side walked a little boy; and when the two approached them, the soldiers snapped their burnished pieces smartly in salute.

The old man was inordinately proud of the little boy. That was why he liked to have him walk with him in the gardens and down near the great gates where people often gathered to see them as they passed. He liked to have him ride with him through the city in one of the royal carriages where all the people might see him; for when the old man died, the little boy would be king.

“The people seem to like us,” said the boy, as they passed the gates and the crowd waved and smiled and cheered. “That is why I cannot understand why they killed my father.”

“They’d do not all like us,” said the old man.

“Why don’t they?” asked the boy.

“It is not so much that they do not like us as that they do not like kings. They believe that they, who know nothing about ruling, can rule better than we who are trained to rule and whose families have ruled for centuries.”

“Well,” said the boy, with finality, “they like you; and when I am king, I shall try to rule as you have.”

“I could wish that you might never be king,” said the old man, bitterly. “It is a thankless job, Michael.”


Three men sat on the verandah of a hunting lodge in the cool woods a few miles from the capital. One was a little, myopic man with horn-rimmed spectacles and thin, disordered hair that had not known shears for many weeks. His collar was soiled; so was his shirt, but most of that which showed in the V of his coat collar was hidden by a Windsor tie. He was a mussy little man with mussy clothes and trousers which made him appear about to jump, when he stood. His mind, however, was not mussy. Its facts were well ordered and easily accessible to a glib tongue which could marshal them in any formation that seemed best adapted to the occasion; on it, all facts seemed plastic, assuming any guise the little man desired to give them. Often the little facts’ own mothers would not have recognized them.

The other two men were in easy tweeds; loose, comfortable clothes that did not, however, look as though they had been cut to fit someone else, or no one, as did the little man’s; also, they were well barbered, and their linen was clean—and linen.

“Your highness will understand,” said the little man, “that in the event of an accident which removed the king and Prince Michael we are to have a new constitution, a far more liberal constitution, and that the representatives of the people shall have the deciding voice in government.”

The older of the other two nodded. “I understand, Meyer,” he said.

“And agree?”

“Certainly. I presume you will be chancellor when I am king?”

“That is understood,” said Meyer. “My associates, who collaborated with me in drawing up the new constitution, would insist upon it.”

“So the constitution is already drawn,” said the younger man, a little testily. “Would it not be well to let his highness see and approve it?”

“That will not be necessary,” said Meyer.

“Why?’’ demanded the younger man.

“Because my associates would not brook any changes in this document into which they have put their best efforts,” replied Meyer, suavely.

“Rubbish!” exclaimed the young man. “Why don’t you come right out and say the king will be nothing but a figurehead—that you will, in reality, be king?”

“At least, the new king will be alive,” said Meyer.

“Come, come, Paul!” said the older man. “I am sure that everything that Meyer and his associates contemplate is in the best interests of the people and the country.”

“Absolutely,” assured Meyer.

“And we should interpose no obstacles,” added H.R.H. Prince Otto.

The young Count Sarnya sniffed.

“We are peculiarly fortunate in being able to eliminate obstacles permanently,” said Meyer, looking at Sarnya through the thick lenses of his glasses; “and now that everything is understood, I must be going. You know how to reach me if you think it necessary. I—always—know—how—to—reach—you. Good day, your highness; good day, Count Sarnya.”

The older-man nodded; the young man merely turned his back and walked toward the sideboard, where he poured himself a stiff drink. As the door closed behind Meyer, he gulped it down. “I want to get a bad taste out of my mouth,” he snapped; then he wheeled suddenly on the older man. “I thought you told me that it was to be only the old man; you were to be regent if anything happened to him. I didn’t know you were going to murder the boy, too.”

“Stop!” commanded Otto. “You are overwrought; you don’t know what you’re saying. I am going to murder no one—that is a nasty word. You know I have had nothing to do with this. They are going to do what they are going to do. No one can stop them. Can I help if it they have offered to make me king? What would have happened had I refused? They’d kill me, too; and Meyer would be dictator. I have had to do it to save the life of my dynasty for my country and my people!”

“Don’t get heroic, Otto,” said Sarnya. “I think I’ll take another drink—I need another.”


The morning sun was pouring through the east windows of the palace, presaging a perfect day, as Count Jagst entered the room in answer to the king’s summons.

“Look at this, Jagst,” said the old king, passing a paper to his chief of staff. “I found it on the floor just under the corridor door as I came in from my quarters.”

General Count Jagst took the paper and opened it—a single sheet of note paper on which was typed: “For God’s sake, Your Majesty, don’t ride out today.”

“Who’s officer of the guard today?” asked the king. “Someone must have seen who slipped that paper under the door.”

“I don’t know,” said Jagst. “I’ll find out.” He touched a button, and when a secretary came in response he told him to summon the officer of the guard.

“They’re closing in on us, Jagst,” said the king. “I don’t care for myself—I’m old and tired—but Michael; he’s such a little fellow to shoulder all this—and the intrigue and the constant danger to his life. Otto will be regent. That will be bad for the country. Otto never had good sense, and into the bargain he’s a damned traitor. If he hadn’t been my brother I’d have had him shot years ago—he has deserved it; always plotting against me, working with all my enemies. If anything happens to me, Jagst, take Michael out of the country until things quiet down. If he’s needed and wanted, bring him back. That’s what the poor little devil will have to pay for being born in line of succession to a throne. The best I can wish for him is that they won’t want him. Take him out of Europe, Jagst; and don’t let anyone know where you are taking him. They got his father; and if they ever get me, they’ll go after him next.”

There was a knock on the door. The king nodded to Jagst.

“Come in!” said the chief of staff. .

Captain Count Sarnya entered and saluted. “You sent for me, Sir?” He stood very erect, looking the king straight in the eyes.

“Yes, Sarnya,” said the monarch. “I found a note that had been slipped under the corridor door, when I came in just now. How could that have happened without someone seeing it done?”

“I have no idea, Sir.”

“There is a sentry on duty in the corridor, isn’t there?”

“Yes, Sir.”

“Make a thorough investigation, Sarnya; and report to me personally. That is all.”

As Sarnya closed the corridor door after him, there came a knock on the door that led to the king’s apartments; then it flew open before anyone could say, “Come in,” or “Stay out.” Prince Michael burst in, flushed and eager; but when he saw that the king was not alone, he stopped, stood up very straight, and saluted his grandfather.

The old man looked at the boy and smiled. “Why all the excitement?” he asked.

“We’re late,” said Michael. “It is past time for our ride—you know you said we would ride in the park today. I particularly like that ride.”

“Why do you like it so much?” asked the king.

“Because in the park I see so many little children playing,” explained the boy. “I see them sailing their boats on the pond and flying kites and playing games. I should like to sail a boat on the pond in the park. I should also like very much to fly a kite, but one cannot fly a kite in the palace gardens on account of the trees. Then the palace shuts off the wind, too. However, it is nice to watch them flying theirs in the park. I am all ready to go, Grandpa.”

“Come here,” said the king. He put his hand on the boy’s shoulders. “I am going to disappoint you today, Michael,” he said. “I am not going to take you with me.”

The eagerness went out of the boy’s eyes; and his chin trembled a little, but he said, “Yes, Sir,” without a tremor in his voice.

“It is also a disappointment to me,” said the king, “but something tells me that I have a very important engagement today.”

“Yes, Sir,” said the boy; “but we shall go again another day, shan’t we?”

Then the old king did that which he had never before done in the presence of others. He drew the boy close to him and kissed him.

“I should hate to think that we never should,” he said. “Now run along, my son, and do the best you can in the palace gardens.”

As the door closed behind the boy, Jagst turned upon the king. “You don’t mean to say that you are going to ride out in the city today, do you?” he demanded fiercely. He even forgot to put in a “Sir” or a “Majesty.”

“You wouldn’t want them to think that I am afraid of them, would you, Jagst?” demanded the king, a half-smile upon his lips.

“I don’t give a damn what that scum thinks, Sir,” shouted .the old general. “I’m only thinking of you, and you should be thinking of your country and your people.”

“I am only thinking that I am a king,” said the old man, wearily; “and that kings must do what kings are expected to do. My God, Jagst! All my life I have been doing all the things I didn’t want to do and none of the things I wanted to do.”

“But just today, Sir,” pleaded Jagst. “You will not go today?”

“What is the difference, Jagst? If it is not today, it will be tomorrow. Come, walk as far as the carriage with me.”

.     .     .     .     .

“This,” said the little Prince Michael to the gardener’s son, “would be a very nice boat if it didn’t tip over every time we put it in the water. I think there must be something wrong with it. The boats that the children sail in the park do not tip over like this. Have you ever been to the park and seen them sailing their boats?”

“Oh, yes,” replied the gardener’s son. “I have sailed boats there myself. The trouble with this boat is that it has no keel. It should have a weighted keel; then, it wouldn’t tip over so easily.”

“You have been to the park and sailed a boat?” said the prince, wistfully. “I was going there today with my grandfather; but he had a very important engagement, and could not take me with him. Perhaps we shall go tomorrow. What was that?”

“It sounded like one of the big guns at the fort,” said the gardener’s son.

.     .     .     .     .

There was rioting in the city that night; and an angry, sullen crowd milled about the great gates before the palace. There were barricades in the streets and machine guns and soldiers and disheveled, loud-mouthed men making speeches.

In the palace a red-eyed boy faced General Count Jagst. “But I do not wish to run away,” he said. “My grandfather did not run away.”

“It was his wish, Your Majesty,” said Jagst. “It was his last command to me.”

“Very well, then, Jagst; I am ready.” Servants carried their portmanteaus to a postern door where waited one of the royal motors that the old king had so scorned. As they entered and drove away, a man watching them from a balcony sighed with relief and turned back into the palace. It was Captain Count Sarnya, Officer of the Guard.

The Lad and the Lion - Contents    |     Chapter Two

Back    |    Words Home    |    Edgar Rice Burroughs Home    |    Site Info.    |    Feedback