The Mad King

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 122

remained quietly in the shadow of a tree waiting for an
opportunity to escape, but before it came he heard the approach of a
small body of troops. They were coming from the village directly
toward the orchard. They passed the sentry and marched within a
dozen feet of the tree behind which Barney was hiding.

As they came opposite him he slipped around the tree to the opposite
side. The sentry had resumed his pacing, and was now out of sight
momentarily among the trees further on. He could not see the
American, but there were others who could. They came in the shape of
a non-commissioned officer and a detachment of the guard to relieve
the sentry. Barney almost bumped into them as he rounded the tree.
There was no escape--the non-commissioned officer was within two
feet of him when Barney discovered him. "What are you doing here?"
shouted the sergeant with an oath. "Your post is there," and he
pointed toward the position where Barney had seen the sentry.

At first Barney could scarce believe his ears. In the darkness the
sergeant had mistaken him for the sentinel! Could he carry it out?
And if so might it not lead him into worse predicament? No, Barney
decided, nothing could be worse. To be caught masquerading in the
uniform of an Austrian soldier within the Austrian lines was to
plumb the uttermost depth of guilt--nothing that he might do now
could make his position worse.

He faced the sergeant, snapping his piece to present, hoping that
this was the proper thing to do. Then he stumbled through a brief
excuse. The officer in command of the troops that had just passed
had demanded the way of him, and he had but stepped a few paces from
his post to point out the road to his superior.

The sergeant grunted and ordered him to fall in. Another man took
his place on duty. They were far from the enemy and discipline was
lax, so the thing was accomplished which under other circumstances
would have been well nigh impossible. A moment later Barney found
himself marching back toward the village, to all intents and
purposes an Austrian private.

Before a low, windowless shed that had been converted into barracks
for the guard, the detail was dismissed. The men broke ranks and
sought their blankets within the shed, tired from their lonely vigil
upon sentry duty.

Barney loitered until the last. All the others had entered. He
dared not, for he knew that any moment the sentry upon the post from
which he had been taken would

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