The Mad King

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 36

that even if they had been retaken,
he could serve her best by hastening to her father and fetching the
only succor that might prevail against the strength of Blentz--armed
men in sufficient force to storm the ancient fortress.

He had scarcely entered the wood when he heard the sound of the
searchers at the moat, and saw the rays of their lanterns flitting
hither and thither as they moved back and forth along the bank.

Then the young man turned his face from the castle and set forth
across the unfamiliar country in the direction of the Old Forest and
the castle Von der Tann.

The memory of the warm lips that had so recently been pressed to his
urged him on in the service of the wondrous girl who had come so
suddenly into his life, bringing to him the realization of a love
that he knew must alter, for happiness or for sorrow, all the
balance of his existence, even unto death.

He dreaded the day of reckoning when, at last, she must learn that
he was no king. He did not have the temerity to hope that her
courage would be equal to the great sacrifice which the
acknowledgment of her love for one not of noble blood must entail;
but he could not believe that she would cease to love him when she
learned the truth.

So the future looked black and cheerless to Barney Custer as he
trudged along the rocky, moonlit way. The only bright spot was the
realization that for a while at least he might be serving the one
woman in all the world.

All the balance of the long night the young man traversed valley and
mountain, holding due south in the direction he supposed the Old
Forest to lie. He passed many a little farm tucked away in the
hollow of a hillside, and quaint hamlets, and now and then the ruins
of an ancient feudal stronghold, but no great forest of black oaks
loomed before him to apprise him of the nearness of his goal, nor
did he dare to ask the correct route at any of the homes he passed.

His fatal likeness to the description of the mad king of Lutha
warned him from intercourse with the men of Lutha until he might
know which were friends and which enemies of the hapless monarch.

Dawn found him still upon his way, but with the determination fully
crystallized to hail the first man he met and ask the way to Tann.
He still avoided the main traveled roads, but from time to time he

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