The Mad King

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 137

one not
familiar with the trail. Maenck and his soldiers had already
partially relaxed their vigilance. The officer had come to the
conclusion that his prisoner was resigned to her fate and that,
after all, the fate of being forced to be queen did not appear so
dark to her.

They had wound up a wooded hill and were half way up to the summit.
The princess was riding close to the right-hand side of the road.
Quite suddenly, and before a hand could be raised to stay her, she
wheeled her mount between two trees, struck home her spur, and was
gone into the wood upon the steep hillside.

With an oath, Maenck cried to his men to be after her. He himself
spurred into the forest at the point where the girl had disappeared.
So sudden had been her break for liberty and so quickly had the
foliage swallowed her that there was something almost uncanny in it.

A hundred yards from the road the trees were further apart, and
through them the pursuers caught a glimpse of their quarry. The girl
was riding like mad along the rough, uneven hillside. Her mount,
surefooted as a chamois, seemed in his element. But two of the
horses of her pursuers were as swift, and under the cruel spurs of
their riders were closing up on their fugitive. The girl urged her
horse to greater speed, yet still the two behind closed in.

A hundred yards ahead lay a deep and narrow gully, hid by bushes
that grew rankly along its verge. Straight toward this the Princess
Emma von der Tann rode. Behind her came her pursuers--two quite
close and the others trailing farther in the rear. The girl reined
in a trifle, letting the troopers that were closest to her gain
until they were but a few strides behind, then she put spur to her
horse and drove him at topmost speed straight toward the gully. At
the bushes she spoke a low word in his backlaid ears, raised him
quickly with the bit, leaning forward as he rose in air. Like a bird
that animal took the bushes and the gully beyond, while close behind
him crashed the two luckless troopers.

Emma von der Tann cast a single backward glance over her shoulder,
as her horse regained his stride upon the opposite side of the
gully, to see her two foremost pursuers plunging headlong into it.
Then she shook free her reins and gave her mount his head along a
narrow trail that both had followed many times before.

Behind her, Maenck and the balance of

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