The Mucker

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 110

a different way than I ever
had learned to before. I'm not sorry for that--I'm glad, for if remorse
is a part of my punishment I'll take it gladly and welcome the chance to
get a little of what's coming to me. Only please don't look at me that
way any more--it's more than I can stand, from you."

It was the first time that the man ever had opened his heart in any such
whole-souled way to her, and it touched the girl more than she would
have cared to admit.

"It would be silly to tell you that I ever can forget that terrible
affair," she said; "but somehow I feel that the man who did that was an
entirely different man from the man who has been so brave and chivalrous
in his treatment of me during the past few weeks."

"It was me that did it, though," he said; "you can't get away from that.
It'll always stick in your memory, so that you can never think of Mr.
Mallory without thinking of the damned beast that murdered him--God! and
I thought it smart!

"But you have no idea how I was raised, Miss Harding," he went on. "Not
that that's any excuse for the thing I did; but it does make it seem a
wonder that I ever could have made a start even at being decent. I
never was well acquainted with any human being that wasn't a thief, or
a pickpocket, or a murderer--and they were all beasts, each in his own
particular way, only they weren't as decent as dumb beasts.

"I wasn't as crafty as most of them, so I had to hold my own by brute
force, and I did it; but, gad, how I accomplished it. The idea of
fighting fair," he laughed at the thought, "was utterly unknown to me.
If I'd ever have tried it I'd have seen my finish in a hurry. No one
fought fair in my gang, or in any other gang that I ever ran up against.
It was an honor to kill a man, and if you accomplished it by kicking him
to death when he was unconscious it detracted nothing from the glory of
your exploit--it was WHAT you did, not HOW you did it, that counted.

"I could have been decent, though, if I'd wanted to. Other fellows who
were born and raised near me were decent enough. They got good jobs and
stuck to them, and lived straight; but they made me sick--I looked down
on them, and spent my time hanging

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