The Mad King

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 117

the hollows of the men's shoulders.
The leveled barrels were upon a line with the breasts of the
condemned. A man at Barney's right moaned. Another sobbed.

"Fire!" There was the hideous roar of the volley. Barney Custer
crumpled forward to the ground, and three bodies fell upon his. A
moment later there was a second volley--all had not fallen at the
first. Then the soldiers came among the bodies, searching for signs
of life; but evidently the two volleys had done their work. The
sergeant formed his men in line. The lieutenant marched them away.
Only silence remained on guard above the pitiful dead in the factory
yard.

The day wore on and still the stiffening corpses lay where they had
fallen. Twilight came and then darkness. A head appeared above the
top of the wall that had enclosed the grounds. Eyes peered through
the night and keen ears listened for any sign of life within. At
last, evidently satisfied that the place was deserted, a man crawled
over the summit of the wall and dropped to the ground within. Here
again he paused, peering and listening.

What strange business had he here among the dead that demanded such
caution in its pursuit? Presently he advanced toward the pile of
corpses. Quickly he tore open coats and searched pockets. He ran his
fingers along the fingers of the dead. Two rings had rewarded his
search and he was busy with a third that encircled the finger of a
body that lay beneath three others. It would not come off. He pulled
and tugged, and then he drew a knife from his pocket.

But he did not sever the digit. Instead he shrank back with a
muffled scream of terror. The corpse that he would have mutilated
had staggered suddenly to its feet, flinging the dead bodies to one
side as it rose.

"You fiend!" broke from the lips of the dead man, and the ghoul
turned and fled, gibbering in his fright.

The tramp of soldiers in the street beyond ceased suddenly at the
sound from within the factory yard. It was a detail of the guard
marching to the relief of sentries. A moment later the gates swung
open and a score of soldiers entered. They saw a figure dodging
toward the wall a dozen paces from them, but they did not see the
other that ran swiftly around the corner of the factory.

This other was Barney Custer of Beatrice. When the command to fire
had been given to the squad of riflemen, a single bullet had creased
the top of his

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