The Mad King

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 113

breath, every atom of which Barney had knocked out of
him.

The officers sitting on Barney alternately beat him and questioned
him, interspersing their interrogations with lurid profanity.

"If you will get off of me," at last shouted the American, "I shall
be glad to explain--and apologize."

They let him up, scowling ferociously. He had promised to explain,
but now that he was confronted by the immediate necessity of an
explanation that would prove at all satisfactory as to how he
happened to be wandering around the rooftops of Burgova, he
discovered that his powers of invention were entirely inadequate.
The need for explaining, however, was suddenly removed. A shadow
fell upon them from above, and as they glanced up Barney saw the
figure of an officer surrounded by several soldiers looking down
upon him.

"Ah, you have him!" cried the newcomer in evident satisfaction.
"It is well. Hold him until we descend."

A moment later he and his escort had dropped through the broken
skylight to the floor beside them.

"Who is the mad man?" cried the captain who had broken Barney's
fall. "The assassin! He tried to murder me."

"I cannot doubt it," replied the officer who had just descended,
"for the fellow is no other than Stefan Drontoff, the famous Serbian
spy!"

"Himmel!" ejaculated the officers in chorus. "You have done a good
day's work, lieutenant."

"The firing squad will do a better work in a few minutes," replied
the lieutenant, with a grim pointedness that took Barney's breath
away.




III

BEFORE THE FIRING SQUAD

They marched Barney before the staff where he urged his American
nationality, pointing to his credentials and passes in support of
his contention.

The general before whom he had been brought shrugged his shoulders.
"They are all Americans as soon as they are caught," he said; "but
why did you not claim to be Prince Peter of Blentz? You have his
passes as well. How can you expect us to believe your story when you
have in your possession passes for different men?

"We have every respect for our friends the Americans. I would even
stretch a point rather than chance harming an American; but you will
admit that the evidence is all against you. You were found in the
very building where Drontoff was known to stay while in Burgova. The
young woman whose mother keeps the place directed our officer to
your room, and you tried to escape, which I do not think that an
innocent American would have done.

"However, as I have said, I will go to almost any length rather than
chance a mistake in the case of one who from

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