The Mucker

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 118

his throat and the long sword of his dead daimio
passed through his heart.

Byrne held the corpse until he was positive that life was extinct, then
he dropped it quietly back upon its pallet, and departed to search the
adjoining dwelling. Here he found a large front room, and a smaller
chamber in the rear--an arrangement similar to that in the daimio's
house.

The front room revealed no clue to the missing men. Within the smaller,
rear room Byrne heard the subdued hum of whispered conversation just as
he was about to open the door. Like a graven image he stood in silence,
his ear glued to the frail door. For a moment he listened thus and then
his heart gave a throb of exultation, and he could have shouted aloud in
thanksgiving--the men were conversing in English!

Quietly Byrne pushed open the door far enough to admit his body. Those
within ceased speaking immediately. Byrne closed the door behind him,
advancing until he felt one of the occupants of the room. The man shrank
from his touch.

"I guess we're done for, Mallory," said the man in a low tone; "they've
come for us."

"Sh-sh," warned the mucker. "Are you and Mallory alone?"

"Yes--for God's sake who are you and where did you come from?" asked the
surprised Mr. Harding.

"Be still," admonished Byrne, feeling for the cords that he knew must
bind the captive.

He found them presently and with his jackknife cut them asunder. Then he
released Mallory.

"Follow me," he said, "but go quietly. Take off your shoes if you
have 'em on, and hang 'em around your neck--tie the ends of the laces
together."

The men did as he bid and a moment later he was leading them across the
room, filled with sleeping men, women, children, and domestic animals.
At the far side stood a rack filled with long swords. Byrne removed two
without the faintest suspicion of a noise. He handed one to each of his
companions, cautioning them to silence with a gesture.

But neither Anthony Harding nor Billy Mallory had had second-story
experience, and the former struck his weapon accidentally against the
door frame with a resounding clatter that brought half the inmates
of the room, wide-eyed, to sitting postures. The sight that met the
natives' eyes had them on their feet, yelling like madmen, and dashing
toward their escaping prisoners, in an instant.

"Quick!" shouted Billy Byrne. "Follow me!"

Down the village street the three men ran, but the shouts of the
natives had brought armed samurai to every door with a celerity that was
uncanny, and in another moment the fugitives

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