The Mad King

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 47

slender frame wracked by the
convulsion of each new attack. Barney had placed an arm about the
boy to support him, for the paroxysms always left him very weak.

The young man's heart went out to the poor boy, and pangs of regret
filled his mind as he realized that the child's pathetic condition
was the direct result of his self-sacrificing attempt to save his
king. Barney felt much like a murderer and a thief, and dreaded the
time when the boy should be brought to a realization of his mistake.

He had come to feel a warm affection for the loyal little lad, who
had suffered so uncomplainingly and whose every thought had been for
the safety and comfort of his king.

Today, thought Barney, I'll take this child through to Lustadt even
if every ragged brigand in Lutha lies between us and the capital;
but even as he spoke a sudden crashing of underbrush behind caused
him to wheel about, and there, not twenty paces from them, stood two
of Yellow Franz's cutthroats.

At sight of Barney and the lad they gave voice to a shout of
triumph, and raising their carbines fired point-blank at the two
fugitives.

But Barney had been equally as quick with his own weapon, and at the
moment that they fired he grasped Rudolph and dragged him backward
to a great boulder behind which their bodies might be protected from
the fire of their enemies.

Both the bullets of the bandits' first volley had been directed at
Barney, for it was upon his head that the great price rested. They
had missed him by a narrow margin, due, perhaps, to the fact that
the mounts of the brigands had been prancing in alarm at the
unexpected sight of the two strangers at the very moment that their
riders attempted to take aim and fire.

But now they had ridden back into the brush and dismounted, and
after hiding their ponies they came creeping out upon their bellies
upon opposite sides of Barney's shelter.

The American saw that it would be an easy thing for them to pick him
off if he remained where he was, and so with a word to Rudolph he
sprang up and the boy with him. Each delivered a quick shot at the
bandit nearest him, and then together they broke for the bushes in
which the brigand's mounts were hidden.

Two shots answered theirs. Rudolph, who was ahead of Barney,
stumbled and threw up his hands. He would have fallen had not the
American thrown a strong arm about him.

"I'm shot, your majesty," murmured the boy,

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