The Mad King

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 205

the
marriage robes of a king of Lutha, was the man he sought.

Maenck drew his revolver. He broke the barrel, and saw that there
was a good cartridge in each chamber of the cylinder. He closed it
quietly. Then he threw open the door, stepped into the room, took
deliberate aim, and fired.

The old man with the ax moved cautiously along the corridor upon the
second floor of the Castle of Blentz until he came to a certain
door. Gently he turned the knob and pushed the door inward. Holding
the ax behind his back, he entered. In his pocket was a great roll
of money, and there was to be an equal amount waiting him at Lustadt
when his mission had been fulfilled.

Once within the room, he looked quickly about him. Upon a great bed
lay the figure of a man asleep. His face was turned toward the
opposite wall away from the side of the bed nearer the menacing
figure of the old servant. On tiptoe the man with the ax approached.
The neck of his victim lay uncovered before him. He swung the ax
behind him. A single blow, as mighty as his ancient muscles could
deliver, would suffice.

Barney Custer opened his eyes. Directly opposite him upon the wall
was a dark-toned photogravure of a hunting scene. It tilted slightly
forward upon its wire support. As Barney's eyes opened it chanced that
they were directed straight upon the shiny glass of the picture. The
light from the window struck the glass in such a way as to transform
it into a mirror. The American's eyes were glued with horror upon
the reflection that he saw there--an old man swinging a huge ax down
upon his head.

It is an open question as to which of the two was the most surprised
at the cat-like swiftness of the movement that carried Barney Custer
out of that bed and landed him in temporary safety upon the opposite
side.

With a snarl the old man ran around the foot of the bed to corner
his prey between the bed and the wall. He was swinging the ax as
though to hurl it. So close was he that Barney guessed it would be
difficult for him to miss his mark. The least he could expect would
be a frightful wound. To have attempted to escape would have
necessitated turning his back to his adversary, inviting instant
death. To grapple with a man thus armed appeared an equally hopeless
alternative.

Shoulder-high beside him hung the photogravure that had already
saved his life once. Why not again?

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