The Mad King

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 121

fact that he let Barney come within reach of his gun. Instantly the
drunken Austrian was transformed into a very sober and active engine
of destruction. Seizing the barrel of the piece Barney jerked it to
one side and toward him, and at the same instant he leaped for the
throat of the sentry.

So quickly was this accomplished that the Austrian had time only for
a single cry, and that was choked in his windpipe by the steel
fingers of the American. Together both men fell heavily to the
ground, Barney retaining his hold upon the other's throat.

Striking and clutching at one another they fought in silence for a
couple of minutes, then the soldier's struggles began to weaken. He
squirmed and gasped for breath. His mouth opened and his tongue
protruded. His eyes started from their sockets. Barney closed his
fingers more tightly upon the bearded throat. He rained heavy blows
upon the upturned face. The beating fists of his adversary waved
wildly now--the blows that reached Barney were pitifully weak.
Presently they ceased. The man struggled violently for an instant,
twitched spasmodically and lay still.

Barney clung to him for several minutes longer, until there was not
the slightest indication of remaining life. The perpetration of the
deed sickened him; but he knew that his act was warranted, for it
had been either his life or the other's. He dragged the body back to
the bushes in which he had been hiding. There he stripped off the
Austrian uniform, put his own clothes upon the corpse and rolled it
into the river.

Dressed as an Austrian private, Barney Custer shouldered the dead
soldier's gun and walked boldly through the wood to the south.
Momentarily he expected to run upon other soldiers, but though he
kept straight on his way for hours he encountered none. The thin
line of sentries along the river had been posted only to double the
preventive measures that had been taken to keep Serbian spies either
from entering or leaving the city.

Toward dawn, at the darkest period of the night, Barney saw lights
ahead of him. Apparently he was approaching a village. He went more
cautiously now, but all his care did not prevent him from running
for the second time that night almost into the arms of a sentry.
This time, however, Barney saw the soldier before he himself was
discovered. It was upon the edge of the town, in an orchard, that
the sentinel was posted. Barney, approaching through the trees,
darting from one to another, was within a few paces of the man
before he saw him.

The American

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