The Mad King

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 160

closed it after him. To strike
a match was but the matter of a moment. The wavering light revealed
the top of the ladder that led downward and the foot of another
leading aloft. He struck still more matches in search of the rope.
It was not there, but his quest revealed the fact that the well at
this point was much larger than he had imagined--it broadened into a
small chamber.

The light of many matches finally led him to the discovery of a
passageway directly behind the fireplace. It was narrow, and after
spanning the chimney descended by a few rough steps to a slightly
lower level. It led toward the opposite end of the castle. Could it
be possible that it connected directly with the apartments in the
farther tower--in the tower where the king was and the Princess
Emma? Barney could scarce hope for any such good luck, but at least
it was worth investigating--it must lead somewhere.

He followed it warily, feeling his way with hands and feet and
occasionally striking a match. It was evident that the corridor lay
in the thick wall of the castle, midway between the bottoms of the
windows of the second floor and the tops of those upon the
first--this would account for the slightly lower level of the
passage from the floor of the second story.

Barney had traversed some distance in the darkness along the
forgotten corridor when the sound of voices came to him from beyond
the wall at his right. He stopped, motionless, pressing his ear
against the side wall. As he did so he became aware of the fact that
at this point the wall was of wood--a large panel of hardwood. Now
he could hear even the words of the speaker upon the opposite side.

"Fetch her here, captain, and I will talk with her alone." The voice
was the king's. "And, captain, you might remove the guard from
before the door temporarily. I shall not require them, nor do I wish
them to overhear my conversation with the princess."

Barney could hear the officer acknowledge the commands of the king,
and then he heard a door close. The man had gone to fetch the
princess. The American struck a match and examined the panel before
him. It reached to the top of the passageway and was some three feet
in width.

At one side were three hinges, and at the other an ancient spring
lock. For an instant Barney stood in indecision. What should he do?
His entry into the apartments of the king would result in alarming
the entire fortress.

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