The Lad and the Lion

Chapter Nineteen

Edgar Rice Burroughs

A FEW DAYS after Otto had been laid to rest and the first untroubled sleep he had enjoyed since his accession, a delegation waited upon King Ferdinand with a draft of the new constitution. He refused to grant them an audience. General Count Sarnya advised him to reconsider.

“I am king,” stated Ferdinand, arrogantly, “and I shall remain king. I shall not resign my power to hoi polloi.”

“Remember your father, your cousin, and your uncle,” Sarnya reminded him; “they seemed to have incurred the displeasure of hoi polloi.”

“We are not afraid,” replied Ferdinand, pompously.

“You are a fool, Ferdinand,” said Sarnya. “I should like to help you, but I can tell you now that your only hope is to make peace with the revolutionary party. It is headed by a man named Andresy. He is earnest and a real patriot. His followers will do anything that he tells them to. I think they are all fools, but to us they are as a thousand to one. I have tried to combat them for years, but they only grow in strength. Your father antagonized them. If you are conciliatory, you may remain king for years. You will not rule, but you will live.”

The next day, General Count Sarnya received an order relieving him of his duties as Chief of Staff and appointing him to command of the frontier forces. The same day, Count Maximilian Lomsk returned from exile, bringing the little blonde from Germany with him

.     .     .     .     .

“Your Majesty,” said Captain Carlyn, “Count Lomsk is boasting that he is to be Chief of Staff. I had hoped that your Majesty would honor me with that appointment.”

Ferdinand fidgeted. He was very much afraid of the sinister Carlyn. “We have not reached a decision in that matter,” he said; and the next day Captain Carlyn was transferred to a regiment on the frontier. That was his answer.

.     .     .     .     .

Hilda de Groot clung to Ferdinand. “I thought you would never come,” she whispered. “I thought that now that you were king, I should never see you again.”

“You are going to see more of me than ever,” he said. “I am going to build a palace just for you and me. In the meantime you are coming to the royal palace as lady-in-waiting to Maria.”

Hilda shuddered. “I couldn’t do that,” she cried. “What would Maria think?”

“It makes no difference what she thinks. I am king.”

.     .     .     .     .

“It has been a long time since I have seen you, my friend,” said Andresy.

“You know how careful I have had to be,” replied Carlyn.

“And now?” asked Andresy.

“The fool has transferred me to the frontier, and is going to appoint Count Max Lomsk Chief of Staff and head of the secret police.”

“What is to be done about it? Of course, the idiot is digging his own grave. The question is, how best to get him into it quickly. Since he refused to see the delegation that waited on him with the new constitution, I have feared the worst. We shall have to do something. Have you any suggestions?”

“Yes. There is a young lieutenant in the 10th Cavalry whom you should know. He is all right. I have been working on him for a long time.”

“Who is he?”

“Hans de Groot, the brother of Hilda de Groot.” Andresy whistled. “Oh,” he said, “I think I see. He does not like Ferdinand.” “He does not,” replied Carlyn.

“Arrange a meeting,” directed Andresy.

.     .     .     .     .

Ferdinand paced up and down the room. Maria was in tears. “Do you think,” she demanded, “that I will remain for one minute under the same roof with that woman?”

“Do as you please,” said Ferdinand. “Whether you like it or not she is coming.”

“I shall go home,” announced Maria.

“That will only make a scandal,” said Ferdinand; “and if you do go home, I shall divorce you for desertion.”

“I shall see to it that you never get a divorce; and, furthermore, I shall tell my father to call your loans.”

.     .     .     .     .

Hilda had two new motors and many magnificent jewels. She also had her choice of the crown jewels, but she was not happy in the palace. She was amazed at the variety and number of ways people could invent to snub her subtly. Unfortunately, perhaps, for her, she was neither ambitious nor vengeful; had she been, she could have made things most uncomfortable for those who snubbed her. Hilda’s first mistake had lain in loving a crown prince. It was greatly magnified now that he was king. Gardener’s daughters should not do such things.

Maria had gone back to papa; and while nobody at Ferdinand’s court had liked her while she was there, they all appeared desolated now that she had left. Overnight, she seemed to have acquired more fine and lovable characteristics than even a doting mother might discern in an angel child.

No, Hilda was not happy; neither was Ferdinand. He had received a reminder through the ambassador from the court of his father-in-law that the first interest payment on the nuptial loan was overdue, and that if it were not paid promptly the loan might be called. This did not dovetail at all neatly with Ferdinand’s plans to build himself and Hilda a new palace, acquire a luxurious private train, and purchase a yacht. Nevertheless, he went ahead with his plans; but to do so, he had to resort to methods that added nothing to his popularity, or perhaps it would be better to say, added considerably to his unpopularity.

Hilda had much more common sense than Ferdinand; but I don’t know that that is particularly surprising, as I think that if the average gardener’s daughter were stacked up against a run-of-mine king she would win out on that score nine times out of ten. She tried to advise Ferdinand.

“I do not think that you need a new palace, a train, or a yacht,” she told him. “You already have this palace; I should be much happier back in my apartment; you have a comfortable private car that costs very little to maintain; and you can always charter a yacht when you want one, which is much cheaper than owning it. People are already commenting on your extravagances, which they blame on me. I am afraid something very terrible may happen, Ferdinand, if we are not more careful.”

“You’re just like the rest of them,” he grumbled. “Nobody wants me to do anything that I want to do. Nobody seems to realize that I am the king and that I own this country and can do what I please with it. I’ll show them.”

.     .     .     .     .

The cobbler’s pretty daughter had been arrested after the assassination of Otto; and while they were questioning her she had learned all the details of that unhappy occurrence that the investigation had revealed, and suspected others that were ignored by the investigators. They did not hold her, as it was obvious that she had had no knowledge of the plot. To most of them she seemed only a dumb little girl of the lower classes, but to Captain Carlyn she seemed something more. She was a widow, and she was extremely pretty. Perhaps she would need a protector now that William had been taken from her. What neither Captain Carlyn nor the others realized was that the cobbler’s pretty daughter was not as dumb as they thought her. During and after the investigation she did a great deal of thinking. She put two and two together, and was not at all surprised that they made neither three nor six; they made four, which bore out a theory she had been entertaining that William had been deliberately lured to his death for the purpose of diverting suspicion from the actual murderer of the King.

When she went home, she made inquiries among the friends and acquaintances of William; and visited places where she knew the radicals congregated to air their grievances against constituted authority. Among them, she was outspoken in her hatred of the King, whom she did not hate at all. She was playing a part, and she played it well. She made many strange friendships; and, because she was so pretty and seemed so dumb, men talked freely in front of her, thinking that she would not understand what they were talking about. She discovered that others believed as she did that William had been the victim of a plot to shield a higher-up; and what she learned from these men, added to what she had learned at the investigation, pointed indubitably to one man as the murderer of William; that he had also murdered the King was of no interest to the cobbler’s pretty daughter. That was his business and the King’s; but when a man kills a woman’s mate, even such a poor specimen of a mate as William, that is something else.

After the investigation, Captain Carlyn sent for her several times. He spoke to her with sympathy and understanding, offering her financial assistance and any other help he could give her. She was very appreciative and very sweet, and further captivated him by her manner. So much so, in fact, that on a couple of occasions he almost forgot his role of fatherly concern and succumbed to a growing infatuation; but Captain Carlyn, being a soldier, was experienced in reducing fortresses, and knew that oftentimes to storm them prematurely is to suffer defeat.

After he was ordered to the frontier, he wrote to her, and she replied. Successive letters became more ardent, and the cobbler’s daughter played up to him. Finally he sent for her, enclosing money for clothes and transportation.

The Lad and the Lion - Contents    |     Chapter Twenty

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