The Mad King

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 99

time. "I wish some excuse would pop up to
which I might hang a reason for beating it to Europe. There's
something doing there. Nearly everybody has declared war upon
everybody else, and here I am stagnating in peace. I'd even welcome
a tornado."

His excuse was to come sooner than he imagined. That night, after
the other members of his family had retired, Barney sat smoking
within a screened porch off the living-room. His thoughts were upon
a trim little figure in riding togs, as he had first seen it nearly
two years before, clinging desperately to a runaway horse upon the
narrow mountain road above Tafelberg.

He lived that thrilling experience through again as he had many
times before. He even smiled as he recalled the series of events
that had resulted from his resemblance to the mad king of Lutha.

They had come to a culmination at the time when the king, whom
Barney had placed upon a throne at the risk of his own life,
discovered that his savior loved the girl to whom the king had been
betrothed since childhood and that the girl returned the American's
love even after she knew that he had but played the part of a king.

Barney's cigar, forgotten, had long since died out. Not even its
former fitful glow proclaimed his presence upon the porch, whose
black shadows completely enveloped him. Before him stretched a wide
acreage of lawn, tree dotted at the side of the house. Bushes hid
the stone wall that marked the boundary of the Custer grounds and
extended here and there out upon the sward among the trees. The
night was moonless but clear. A faint light pervaded the scene.

Barney sat staring straight ahead, but his gaze did not stop upon
the familiar objects of the foreground. Instead it spanned two
continents and an ocean to rest upon the little spot of woodland and
rugged mountain and lowland that is Lutha. It was with an effort
that the man suddenly focused his attention upon that which lay
directly before him. A shadow among the trees had moved!

Barney Custer sat perfectly still, but now he was suddenly alert and
watchful. Again the shadow moved where no shadow should be moving.
It crossed from the shade of one tree to another. Barney came
cautiously to his feet. Silently he entered the house, running
quickly to a side door that opened upon the grounds. As he drew it
back its hinges gave forth no sound. Barney looked toward the spot
where he had seen the shadow. Again he saw it scuttle

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