Long Live the King HTML version
On The Mountain Road
The low gray car which carried the Chancellor was on its way through the mountains. It
moved deliberately, for two reasons. First, the Chancellor was afraid of motors. He had a
horseman's hatred and fear of machines. Second, he was not of a mind to rouse King Karl
from a night's sleep, even to bring the hand of the Princess Hedwig. His intention was to
put up at some inn in a village not far from the lodge and to reach Karl by messenger
early in the morning, before the hunters left for the day.
Then, all being prepared duly and in order, Mettlich himself would arrive, and things
would go forward with dignity and dispatch.
In the mean time he sat back among his furs and thought of many things. He had won a
victory which was, after all, but a compromise. He had chosen the safe way, but it led
over the body of a young girl, and he loathed it. Also, he thought of Nikky, and what
might be. But the car was closed and comfortable. The motion soothed him. After a time
he dropped asleep.
The valley of the Ar deepened. The cliff rose above them, a wall broken here and there
by the offtake of narrow ravines, filled with forest trees. There was a pause while the
chains on the rear wheels were supplemented by others in front, for there must be no
danger of a skid. And another pause, where the road slanted perilously toward the brink
of the chasm, and caution dictated that the Chancellor alight, and make a hundred feet or
so of dangerous curve afoot.
It required diplomacy to get him out. But it was finally done, and his heavy figure, draped
in its military cape, went on ahead, outlined by the lamps of the car behind him. The
snow was hardly more than a coating, but wet and slippery. Mettlich stalked on, as one
who would defy the elements, or anything else, to hinder him that night.
He was well around the curve, and the cliff was broken by a wedge of timber, when a
curiously shaped object projected itself over the edge of the bank, and rolling down, lay
almost at his feet. The lamps brought it into sharp relief - a man, gagged and tied, and
rolled, cigar shaped, in an automobile robe.
The Chancellor turned, and called to his men. Then he bent over the bundle. The others
ran up, and cut the bonds. What with cold and long inaction, and his recent drop over the
bank, the man could not speak. One of the secret-service men had a flask, and held it to
his lips. An amazing situation, indeed, increased by the discovery that under the robe he
wore only his undergarments, with a soldier's tunic wrapped around his shoulders. They
carried him into the car, where he lay with head lolling back, and his swollen tongue
protruding. Half dead he was, with cold and long anxiety. The brandy cleared his mind
long before he could speak, and he saw by the uniforms that he was in the hands of the
enemy. He turned sulkily silent then, convinced that he had escaped one death but to
meet another. Twenty-four hours now he had faced eternity, and he was ready.