The Mad King

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 71

branches
from that to Blentz, and the four who were to fetch the king wheeled
their horses into the left-hand fork and cantered off upon their
mission.

The direct road between Lustadt and Tafelberg is but little more
than half the distance of that which Coblich and his companions had
to traverse because of the wide detour they had made by riding
almost to Blentz first, and so it was that when they cantered into
the little mountain town near midnight Barney Custer and Lieutenant
Butzow were but a mile or two behind them.

Had the latter had even the faintest of suspicions that the identity
of the hiding place of the king might come to the knowledge of Peter
of Blentz they could have reached Tafelberg ahead of Coblich and his
party, but all unsuspecting they rode slowly to conserve the energy
of their mounts for the return trip.

In silence the two men approached the grounds surrounding the
sanatorium. In the soft dirt of the road the hoofs of their mounts
made no sound, and the shadows of the trees that border the front of
the enclosure hid them from the view of the trooper who held four
riderless horses in a little patch of moonlight that broke through
the opening in the trees at the main gate of the institution.

Barney was the first to see the animals and the man.

"S-s-st," he hissed, reining in his horse.

Butzow drew alongside the American.

"What can it mean?" asked Barney. "That fellow is a trooper, but I
cannot make out his uniform."

"Wait here," said Butzow, and slipping from his horse he crept
closer to the man, hugging the dense shadows close to the trees.

Barney reined in nearer the low wall. From his saddle he could see
the grounds beyond through the branches of a tree. As he looked his
attention was suddenly riveted upon a sight that sent his heart into
his throat.

Three men were dragging a struggling, half-naked figure down the
gravel walk from the sanatorium toward the gate. One kept a hand
clapped across the mouth of the prisoner, who struck and fought his
assailants with all the frenzy of despair.

Barney leaped from his saddle and ran headlong after Butzow. The
lieutenant had reached the gate but an instant ahead of him when the
trooper, turning suddenly at some slight sound of the officer's foot
upon the ground, detected the man creeping upon him. In an instant
the fellow had whipped out a revolver, and raising it fired
point-blank at Butzow's chest; but in the same instant a figure shot
out

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