The Mad King

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 98

a blinding glare accompanied by a
deafening roar. It was as though nature had marshaled all her forces
in one mighty, devastating effort. At the same instant the walls of
the great mill burst asunder, a nebulous mass of burning gas shot
heavenward, and then the flames settled down to complete the
destruction of the ruin.

It was the following morning that Victoria and Barney Custer, with
Lieutenant Butzow and Custer's partner, stood contemplating the
smoldering wreckage.

"And to think," said Barney, "that yesterday this muss was the
largest corn mill west of anywhere. I guess we can both take
vacations now, Bert."

"Who would have thought that a single bolt of lightning could have
resulted in such havoc?" mused Victoria.

"Who would?" agreed Lieutenant Butzow, and then, with a sudden
narrowing of his eyes and a quick glance at Barney, "if it WAS
lightning."

The American looked at the Luthanian. "You think--" he started.

"I don't dare think," replied Butzow, "because of the fear of what
this may mean to you and Miss Victoria if it was not lightning that
destroyed the mill. I shouldn't have spoken of it but that it may
urge you to greater caution, which I cannot but think is most
necessary since the warning I received from Lutha."

"Why should Leopold seek to harm me now?" asked Barney. "It has
been almost two years since you and I placed him upon his throne,
only to be rewarded with threats and hatred. In that time neither of
us has returned to Lutha nor in any way conspired against the king.
I cannot fathom his motives."

"There is the Princess Emma von der Tann," Butzow reminded him.
"She still repulses him. He may think that, with you removed
definitely and permanently, all will then be plain sailing for him
in that direction. Evidently he does not know the princess."


An hour later they were all bidding Butzow good-bye at the station.
Victoria Custer was genuinely grieved to see him go, for she liked
this soldierly young officer of the Royal Horse Guards immensely.

"You must come back to America soon," she urged.

He looked down at her from the steps of the moving train. There was
something in his expression that she had never seen there before.

"I want to come back soon," he answered, "to--to Beatrice," and he
flushed and smiled at his own stumbling tongue.

For about a week Barney Custer moped disconsolately, principally
about the ruins of the corn mill. He was in everyone's way and
accomplished nothing.

"I was never intended for a captain of industry," he confided to his
partner for the hundredth

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