The Mucker

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 120

pull the three
shafts from him.

"What are we to do?" cried the older man. "They will get us again as
sure as fate."

"They haven't got us yet," said Billy. "Wait, I got a scheme. Can you
walk, Mallory?"

Mallory staggered to his feet.

"I'll see," he said, and then: "Yes, I can make it."

"Good," exclaimed Byrne. "Now listen. Almost due north, across this
range of hills behind us is a valley. In the center of the valley is
a river. It is a good fifteen-hour march for a well man--it will take
Mallory and you longer. Follow down the river till you come to a little
island--it should be the first one from where you strike the river. On
that island you will find Miss Harding, Norris, and Foster. Now hurry."

"But you, man!" exclaimed Mallory. "We can't leave you."

"Never!" said Anthony Harding.

"You'll have to, though," replied Billy. "That's part of the scheme.
It won't work any other way." He raised his revolver and fired a single
shot in the direction of the howling savages. "That's to let 'em know
we're still here," he said. "I'll keep that up, off and on, as long as
I can. It'll fool 'em into thinking that we're all here, and cover your
escape. See?"

"I won't do it," said Mallory.

"Yes you will," replied the mucker. "It's not any of us that
counts--it's Miss Harding. As many as can have got to get back to her
just as quick as the Lord'll let us. I can't, so you two'll have to. I'm
done for--a blind man could see that. It wouldn't do a bit of good for
you two to hang around here and get killed, waitin' for me to die; but
it would do a lot of harm, for it might mean that Miss Harding would be
lost too."

"You say my daughter is on this island you speak of, with Norris and
Foster--is she quite safe and well?" asked Harding.

"Perfectly," said Byrne; "and now beat it--you're wasting a lot of
precious time."

"For Barbara's sake it looks like the only way," said Anthony Harding,
"but it seems wicked and cowardly to desert a noble fellow like you,
sir."

"It is wicked," said Billy Mallory. "There must be some other way.
By the way, old man, who are you anyhow, and how did you happen to be
here?"

Byrne turned his face upward so that the full moon lighted his features
clearly.

"There is no other way, Mallory," he said. "Now take a good look at
me--don't you recognize me?"

Mallory gazed intently at the strong face looking into his.

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