The Mad King

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 208

and filled his lungs with the sweet,
pure air of freedom. He was a new man. The wound in his breast was
forgotten. Lightly he touched his spurs to the hunter's sides.
Tossing his head and curveting, the animal broke into a long, easy
trot. Where the road dipped into the ravine and down through the
village to the valley the rider drew his restless mount into a walk;
but, once in the valley, he let him out. Barney took the short road
to Lustadt. It would cut ten miles off the distance that the main
wagonroad covered, and it was a good road for a horseman. It should
bring him to Lustadt by one o'clock or a little after. The road
wound through the hills to the east of the main highway, and was
scarcely more than a trail where it crossed the Ru River upon a
narrow bridge that spanned the deep mountain gorge that walls the Ru
for ten miles through the hills.

When Barney reached the river his hopes sank. The bridge was
gone--dynamited by the Austrians in their retreat. The nearest
bridge was at the crossing of the main highway over ten miles to the
southwest. There, too, the river might be forded even if the
Austrians had destroyed that bridge also; but here or elsewhere in
the hills there could be no fording--the banks of the Ru were
perpendicular cliffs.

The misfortune would add nearly twenty miles to his journey--he
could not now hope to reach Lustadt before late in the afternoon.
Turning his horse back along the trail he had come, he retraced his
way until he reached a narrow bridle path that led toward the
southwest. The trail was rough and indistinct, yet he pushed
forward, even more rapidly than safety might have suggested. The
noble beast beneath him was all loyalty and ambition.

"Take it easy, old boy," whispered Barney into the slim, pointed
ears that moved ceaselessly backward and forward, "you'll get your
chance when we strike the highway, never fear."

And he did.

So unexpected had been Maenck's entrance into the room in the east
transept, so sudden his attack, that it was all over before a hand
could be raised to stay him. At the report of his revolver the king
sank to the floor. At almost the same instant Lieutenant Butzow
whipped a revolver from beneath his tunic and fired at the assassin.
Maenck staggered forward and stumbled across the body of the king.
Butzow was upon him instantly, wresting the revolver from his
fingers. Prince Ludwig ran to the king's side and, kneeling there,

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