The Mad King

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 38

Lutha do not wear swords," he said. "You are
an officer. Why should you desire to conceal the fact from two
honest farmers? We have done nothing. Let us go our way."

Barney looked his astonishment at this reply.

"Most certainly, go your way, my friends," he said laughing. "I
would not delay you if I could; but before you go please be good
enough to tell me how to reach the Old Forest and the ancient castle
of the Prince von der Tann."

For a moment the two men whispered together, then the spokesman
turned to Barney.

"We will lead you upon the right road. Come," and the two turned
their horses, one of them starting slowly back up the trail while
the other remained waiting for Barney to pass him.

The American, suspecting nothing, voiced his thanks, and set out
after him who had gone before. As he passed the fellow who waited
the latter moved in behind him, so that Barney walked between the
two. Occasionally the rider at his back turned in his saddle to scan
the trail behind, as though still fearful that Barney had been lying
to them and that he would discover a company of soldiers charging
down upon them.

The trail became more and more difficult as they advanced, until
Barney wondered how the little horses clung to the steep
mountainside, where he himself had difficulty in walking without
using his hand to keep from falling.

Twice the American attempted to break through the taciturnity of his
guides, but his advances were met with nothing more than sultry
grunts or silence, and presently a suspicion began to obtrude itself
among his thoughts that possibly these "honest farmers" were
something more sinister than they represented themselves to be.

A malign and threatening atmosphere seemed to surround them. Even
the cat-like movement of their silent mounts breathed a sinister
secrecy, and now, for the first time, Barney noticed the short, ugly
looking carbines that were slung in boots at their saddle-horns.
Then, prompted to further investigation, he dropped back beside the
man who had been riding behind him, and as he did so he saw beneath
the fellow's cloak the butts of two villainous-looking pistols.

As Barney dropped back beside him the man turned his mount across
the narrow trail, and reining him in motioned Barney ahead.

"I have changed my mind," said the American, "about going to the Old
Forest."

He had determined that he might as well have the thing out now as
later, and discover at once how he stood with these two, and whether
or not his suspicions of

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