The Mad King

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 198

feet,
their muscles reacting to the command that their brains but half
perceived. They snatched their guns from the racks and formed a line
behind the corporal. The king raised his fingers to the vizor of his
helmet in acknowledgment of their salute.

"Saddle up quietly, corporal," he said. "We shall ride to Lustadt
tonight."

The non-commissioned officer saluted. "And an extra horse for Herr
Custer?" he said.

The king shook his head. "The man died of his wound about an hour
ago," he said. "While you are saddling up I shall arrange with some
of the Blentz servants for his burial--now hurry!"

The corporal marched his troopers from the guardroom toward the
stables. The man in the king's clothes touched a bell which was
obviously a servant call. He waited impatiently a reply to his
summons, tapping his finger-tips against the sword-scabbard that was
belted to his side. At last a sleepy-eyed man responded--a man who
had grown gray in the service of Peter of Blentz. At sight of the
king he opened his eyes in astonishment, pulled his foretop, and
bowed uneasily.

"Come closer," whispered the king. The man did so, and the king
spoke in his ear earnestly, but in scarce audible tones. The eyes of
the listener narrowed to mere slits--of avarice and cunning, cruelly
cold and calculating. The speaker searched through the pockets of
the king's clothes that covered him. At last he withdrew a roll of
bills. The amount must have been a large one, but he did not stop to
count it. He held the money under the eyes of the servant. The
fellow's claw-like fingers reached for the tempting wealth. He
nodded his head affirmatively.

"You may trust me, sire," he whispered.

The king slipped the money into the other's palm. "And as much
more," he said, "when I receive proof that my wishes have been
fulfilled."

"Thank you, sire," said the servant.

The king looked steadily into the other's face before he spoke
again.

"And if you fail me," he said, "may God have mercy on your soul."
Then he wheeled and left the guardroom, walking out into the
courtyard where the soldiers were busy saddling their mounts.

A few minutes later the party clattered over the drawbridge and down
the road toward Blentz and Lustadt. From a window of the apartments
of Peter of Blentz a man watched them depart. When they passed
across a strip of moonlit road, and he had counted them, he smiled
with relief.

A moment later he entered a panel beside the huge fireplace in the
west wall and disappeared. There he struck a match,

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