The Mad King

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 86

his beard
it was not likely that Barney would be again mistaken for the king.

At the stables Butzow requisitioned three horses, and soon the trio
was galloping through a little-frequented street toward the
northern, hilly environs of Lustadt. They rode in silence until they
came to an old stone building, whose boarded windows and general
appearance of dilapidation proclaimed its long tenantless condition.
Rank weeds, now rustling dry and yellow in the November wind, choked
what once might have been a luxuriant garden. A stone wall, which
had at one time entirely surrounded the grounds, had been almost
completely removed from the front to serve as foundation stone for a
smaller edifice farther down the mountainside.

The horsemen avoided this break in the wall, coming up instead upon
the rear side where their approach was wholly screened from the
building by the wall upon that exposure.

Close in they dismounted, and leaving the animals in charge of the
shopkeeper of Tafelberg, Barney and Butzow hastened toward a small
postern-gate which swung, groaning, upon a single rusted hinge. Each
felt that there was no time for caution or stratagem. Instead all
depended upon the very boldness and rashness of their attack, and so
as they came through into the courtyard the two dashed headlong for
the building.

Chance accomplished for them what no amount of careful execution
might have done, and they came within the ruin unnoticed by the four
who occupied the old, darkened library.

Possibly the fact that one of the men had himself just entered and
was excitedly talking to the others may have drowned the noisy
approach of the two. However that may be, it is a fact that Barney
and the cavalry officer came to the very door of the library
unheard.

There they halted, listening. Coblich was speaking.

"The Regent commands it, Maenck," he was saying. "It is the only
thing that can save our necks. He said that you had better be the
one to do it, since it was your carelessness that permitted the
fellow to escape from Blentz."

Huddled in a far corner of the room was an abject figure trembling
in terror. At the words of Coblich it staggered to its feet. It was
the king.

"Have pity--have pity!" he cried. "Do not kill me, and I will go
away where none will ever know that I live. You can tell Peter that
I am dead. Tell him anything, only spare my life. Oh, why did I ever
listen to the cursed fool who tempted me to think of regaining the
crown that has brought me only misery and

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