The Mad King

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 118

head, stunning him. All day he had lain there
unconscious. It had been the tugging of the ghoul at his ring that
had roused him to life at last.

Behind him, as he scurried around the end of the factory building,
he heard the scattering fire of half a dozen rifles, followed by a
scream--the fleeing hyena had been hit. Barney crouched in the
shadow of a pile of junk. He heard the voices of soldiers as they
gathered about the wounded man, questioning him, and a moment later
the imperious tones of an officer issuing instructions to his men to
search the yard. That he must be discovered seemed a certainty to
the American. He crouched further back in the shadows close to the
wall, stepping with the utmost caution.

Presently to his chagrin his foot touched the metal cover of a
manhole; there was a resultant rattling that smote upon Barney's
ears and nerves with all the hideous clatter of a boiler shop. He
halted, petrified, for an instant. He was no coward, but after being
so near death, life had never looked more inviting, and he knew that
to be discovered meant certain extinction this time.

The soldiers were circling the building. Already he could hear them
nearing his position. In another moment they would round the corner
of the building and be upon him. For an instant he contemplated a
bold rush for the fence. In fact, he had gathered himself for the
leaping start and the quick sprint across the open under the noses
of the soldiers who still remained beside the dying ghoul, when his
mind suddenly reverted to the manhole beneath his feet. Here lay a
hiding place, at least until the soldiers had departed.

Barney stooped and raised the heavy lid, sliding it to one side.
How deep was the black chasm beneath he could not even guess.
Doubtless it led into a coal bunker, or it might open over a pit of
great depth. There was no way to discover other than to plumb the
abyss with his body. Above was death--below, a chance of safety.

The soldiers were quite close when Barney lowered himself through
the manhole. Clinging with his fingers to the upper edge his feet
still swung in space. How far beneath was the bottom? He heard the
scraping of the heavy shoes of the searchers close above him, and
then he closed his eyes, released the grasp of his fingers, and
dropped.




IV

A RACE TO LUTHA

Barney's fall was not more than four or five feet. He found himself
upon a slippery floor of

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