The Lad and the Lion

Chapter Twenty-Three

Edgar Rice Burroughs

WHEN HANS DE GROOT came to mess for breakfast on thursday, the twelfth, he found his fellow officers in a state of mild excitement.

“Your friend, Carlyn, was killed last night,” said one of them. “Here it is in the morning paper. He was shot by a woman in her room in a hotel on the frontier.”

Hans took the paper and read the brief article. “Wesl,” he said; “Why that was the name of the fellow who assassinated the King. They must have been a very dangerous couple. Well, she will hang for it; and that will be the end of both of them.”

“I am a great believer in capital punishment,” said another officer. “People who commit murders should die.”

“Yes,” agreed Hans.

.     .     .     .     .

General Count Sarnya arrived in the capital in the afternoon and had an immediate audience with the King. Ferdinand was cold and arrogant. He had always hated Sarnya, probably because Sarnya was a strong character and a very popular man. Ferdinand was neither. He mistook stubbornness for strength, and depended upon his power and his title for popularity.

“Conditions are very bad, Your Majesty,” said Sarnya. “There is a great deal of unrest. The people need only a spark to set them off. The army cannot be depended upon. I beg of you to make a gesture of conciliation at once—today. If you will announce that you will accept the new constitution and at the same time restore the former pay to all grades in the services, I am positive that you will forestall a disaster.”

“I did not send for you to ask your advice,” said Ferdinand, coldly. “I sent for you to tell you to prepare the frontier forces for war. I am going to march on the capital of my father-in-law, and teach the old fool a lesson. When I get through with him, the indemnity he’ll have to pay will more than wipe out the loan he has had the effrontery to call.”

General Count Sarnya stood very straight before the King. “I have warned you, Ferdinand,” he said, “just as I warned your uncle many years ago. Because he was a great king and a very brave man, he chose to ignore my warning. You are ignoring it because you are a fool. Let the consequences be on your own head.”

Ferdinand jumped to his feet, trembling with rage. “How dare you speak to me like that?” he demanded. “You are under arrest. We shall know what to do with traitors.”

Sarnya laughed at him. “You cannot arrest me,” he said. “At a word from me the whole army would rise against you, and you know it;” then he turned on his heel and quit the room.

Ferdinand sank back in his chair, still trembling.

.     .     .     .     .

“Hilda,” said Ferdinand, “have your maid pack a bag and get your wraps; we are going to the hunting lodge for a few days. I am sick and tired of all the wrangling and dissension here. I want a rest.”

“Why, Ferdinand, it’s after midnight,” objected Hilda, “and I’m tired. I want to go to bed.”

“You can sleep better out there in the woods, and it doesn’t take long to drive out. Come on.”

“No; it’s Friday the thirteenth; and I wouldn’t start anywhere on that date,” said Hilda. “We’ll go Saturday.”

“Oh, very well; have your own way,” snapped Ferdinand, petulantly.

.     .     .     .     .

When Friday morning dawned, the streets of the capital were filled with soldiers. They surrounded the palace and all the government buildings and the national bank. There were barricades and machine guns across many of the principal streets. General Count Sarnya was in command.

Rumors flew thick and fast. The people were nervous and terrified. No newspapers had been issued. There was tenseness in the air. At last an official bulletin was issued announcing that a state of martial law existed. It also told briefly the occurrences of the early hours of the morning of Friday the thirteenth.

“At three o’clock in the morning,” it stated, “six officers forced their way into the palace and the King’s apartments. There they found and killed both the King and Mademoiselle de Groot. Lieutenant Hans de Groot, who was one of the six officers involved, shot himself through the head immediately following the death of his sister; he died instantly.”

The Lad and the Lion - Contents    |     Chapter Twenty-Four

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