The Mad King

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 148

a cry the fellow threw his hands above his head, staggered
forward and plunged full length upon his face. Barney gathered the
princess in his arms and plunged into the shallow stream. The girl
held his carbine as he stumbled over the rocky bottom. The water
deepened rapidly--the opposite shore seemed a long way off and
behind there were three more enemies in hot pursuit.

Under ordinary circumstances Barney could have found it in his heart
to wish the little Luthanian river as broad as the Mississippi, for
only under such circumstances as these could he ever hope to hold
the Princess Emma in his arms. Two years before she had told him
that she loved him; but at the same time she had given him to
understand that their love was hopeless. She might refuse to wed the
king; but that she should ever wed another while the king lived was
impossible, unless Leopold saw fit to release her from her betrothal
to him and sanction her marriage to another. That he ever would do
this was to those who knew him not even remotely possible.

He loved Emma von der Tann and he hated Barney Custer--hated him
with a jealous hatred that was almost fanatic in its intensity. And
even that the Princess Emma von der Tann would wed him were she free
to wed was a question that was not at all clear in the mind of
Barney Custer. He knew something of the traditions of this noble
family--of the pride of caste, of the fetish of blood that
inexorably dictated the ordering of their lives.

The girl had just said that the honor of her house was more precious
than the life of any of its members. How much more precious would it
be to her than her own material happiness! Barney Custer sighed and
struggled through the swirling waters that were now above his hips.
If he pressed the lithe form closer to him than necessity demanded,
who may blame him?

The girl, whose face was toward the bank they had just quitted, gave
no evidence of displeasure if she noted the fierce pressure of his
muscles. Her eyes were riveted upon the wood behind. Presently a man
emerged. He called to them in a loud and threatening tone.

Barney redoubled his Herculean efforts to gain the opposite bank.
He was in midstream now and the water had risen to his waist. The
girl saw Maenck and the other trooper emerge from the underbrush
beside the first. Maenck was crazed with anger. He shook his fist
and screamed aloud his threatening commands

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