The Mad King

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 159

visit to it. He recalled the incidents of the hour of his
imprisonment here, thought of old Joseph who had aided his escape,
looked at the paneled fireplace, whose secret, it was evident, not
even the master of Blentz was familiar with--and grinned.

"'For at dawn you die!'" he repeated to himself, still smiling
broadly. Then he crossed quickly to the fireplace, running his
fingers along the edge of one of the large tiled panels that hid the
entrance to the well-like shaft that rose from the cellars beneath
to the towers above and which opened through similar concealed exits
upon each floor. If the floor above should be untenanted he might be
able to reach it as he and Joseph had done two years ago when they
opened the secret panel in the fireplace and climbed a hidden ladder
to the room overhead; and then by vacant corridors reached the far
end of the castle above the suite in which the princess had been
confined and near which Barney had every reason to believe she was
now imprisoned.

Carefully Barney's fingers traversed the edges of the panel. No
hidden latch rewarded his search. Again and again he examined the
perfectly fitted joints until he was convinced either that there was
no latch there or that it was hid beyond possibility of discovery.
With each succeeding minute the American's heart and hopes sank
lower and lower. Two years had elapsed since he had seen the secret
portal swing to the touch of Joseph's fingers. One may forget much
in two years; but that he was at work upon the right panel Barney
was positive. However, it would do no harm to examine its mate which
resembled it in minutest detail.

Almost indifferently Barney turned his attention to the other panel.
He ran his fingers over it, his eyes following them. What was that?
A finger-print? Upon the left side half way up a tiny smudge was
visible. Barney examined it more carefully. A round, white figure of
the conventional design that was burned into the tile bore the
telltale smudge.

Otherwise it differed apparently in no way from the numerous other
round, white figures that were repeated many times in the scheme of
decoration. Barney placed his thumb exactly over the mark that
another thumb had left there and pushed. The figure sank into the
panel beneath the pressure. Barney pushed harder, breathless with
suspense. The panel swung in at his effort. The American could have
whooped with delight.

A moment more and he stood upon the opposite side of the secret door
in utter darkness, for he had quickly

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