The Mad King

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 120

He had reached the mouth of the
sewer and was in the river. For a moment he lay still, floating upon
his back to rest. Above him he heard the tread of a sentry along the
river front, and the sound of men's voices.

The sweet, fresh air, the star-shot void above, acted as a powerful
tonic to his shattered hopes and overwrought nerves. He lay inhaling
great lungsful of pure, invigorating air. He listened to the voices
of the Austrian soldiery above him. All the buoyancy of his inherent
Americanism returned to him.

"This is no place for a minister's son," he murmured, and turning
over struck out for the opposite shore. The river was not wide, and
Barney was soon nearing the bank along which he could see occasional
camp fires. Here, too, were Austrians. He dropped down-stream below
these, and at last approached the shore where a wood grew close to
the water's edge. The bank here was steep, and the American had some
difficulty in finding a place where he could clamber up the
precipitous wall of rock. But finally he was successful, finding
himself in a little clump of bushes on the river's brim. Here he lay
resting and listening--always listening. It seemed to Barney that
his ears ached with the constant strain of unflagging duty that his
very existence demanded of them.

Hearing nothing, he crawled at last from his hiding place with the
purpose of making his way toward the south and to the frontier as
rapidly as possible. He could hope only to travel by night, and he
guessed that this night must be nearly spent. Stooping, he moved
cautiously away from the river. Through the shadows of the wood he
made his way for perhaps a hundred yards when he was suddenly
confronted by a figure that stepped from behind the bole of a tree.

"Halt! Who goes there?" came the challenge.

Barney's heart stood still. With all his care he had run straight
into the arms of an Austrian sentry. To run would be to be shot. To
advance would mean capture, and that too would mean death.

For the barest fraction of an instant he hesitated, and then his
quick American wits came to his aid. Feigning intoxication he
answered the challenge in dubious Austrian that he hoped his maudlin
tongue would excuse.

"Friend," he answered thickly. "Friend with a drink--have one?"
And he staggered drunkenly forward, banking all upon the credulity
and thirst of the soldier who confronted him with fixed bayonet.

That the sentry was both credulous and thirsty was evidenced by

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