The Mad King

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 58

the sleepy eyes of those who answered
his summons, and daylight found him still forging ahead in the
direction of the capital of Lutha.

The American was sunk in unhappy meditation as his weary little
mount plodded slowly along the dusty road. For hours the man had not
been able to urge the beast out of a walk. The loss of time
consequent upon his having followed wrong roads during the night and
the exhaustion of the pony which retarded his speed to what seemed
little better than a snail's pace seemed to assure the failure of
his mission, for at best he could not reach Lustadt before noon.

There was no possibility of bringing Leopold to his capital in time
for the coronation, and but a bare possibility that Prince Ludwig
would accept the word of an entire stranger that Leopold lived, for
the acknowledgment of such a condition by the old prince could
result in nothing less than an immediate resort to arms by the two
factions. It was certain that Peter would be infinitely more anxious
to proceed with his coronation should it be rumored that Leopold
lived, and equally certain that Prince Ludwig would interpose every
obstacle, even to armed resistance, to prevent the consummation of
the ceremony.

Yet there seemed to Barney no other alternative than to place before
the king's one powerful friend the information that he had. It would
then rest with Ludwig to do what he thought advisable.

An hour from Lustadt the road wound through a dense forest, whose
pleasant shade was a grateful relief to both horse and rider from
the hot sun beneath which they had been journeying the greater part
of the morning. Barney was still lost in thought, his eyes bent
forward, when at a sudden turning of the road he came face to face
with a troop of horse that were entering the main highway at this
point from an unfrequented byroad.

At sight of them the American instinctively wheeled his mount in an
effort to escape, but at a command from an officer a half dozen
troopers spurred after him, their fresh horses soon overtaking his
jaded pony.

For a moment Barney contemplated resistance, for these were troopers
of the Royal Horse, the body which was now Peter's most effective
personal tool; but even as his hand slipped to the butt of one of
the revolvers at his hip, the young man saw the foolish futility of
such a course, and with a shrug and a smile he drew rein and turned
to face the advancing soldiers.

As he did so the officer rode up,

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