The Mucker

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 123

would be in the way. He would be a constant embarrassment
to them all, for they would feel that they'd have to be nice to him in
return for what he had done for them. The thought made the mucker sick.

"I'd rather croak," he murmured.

But he didn't "croak"--instead, he waxed stronger, and toward evening
the pangs of hunger and thirst drove him to consider means for escaping
from his hiding place, and searching for food and water.

He waited until after dark, and then he crawled, with utmost difficulty,
from the deep pit. He had heard nothing of the natives since the night
before, and now, in the open, there came to him but the faint sounds of
the village life across the clearing.

Byrne dragged himself toward the trail that led to the spring where poor
Theriere had died. It took him a long time to reach it, but at last he
was successful. The clear, cold water helped to revive and strengthen
him. Then he sought food. Some wild fruit partially satisfied him for
the moment, and he commenced the laborious task of retracing his steps
toward "Manhattan Island."

The trail that he had passed over in fifteen hours as he had hastened to
the rescue of Anthony Harding and Billy Mallory required the better
part of three days now. Occasionally he wondered why in the world he was
traversing it anyway. Hadn't he wanted to die, and leave Barbara free?
But life is sweet, and the red blood still flowed strong in the veins of
the mucker.

"I can go my own way," he thought, "and not bother her; but I'll be
dinged if I want to croak in this God-forsaken hole--Grand Avenue for
mine, when it comes to passing in my checks. Gee! but I'd like to hear
the rattle of the Lake Street 'L' and see the dolls coming down the
station steps by Skidmore's when the crowd comes home from the Loop at
night."

Billy Byrne was homesick. And then, too, his heart was very heavy and
sad because of the great love he had found--a love which he realized was
as hopeless as it was great. He had the memory, though, of the girl's
arms about his neck, and her dear lips crushed to his for a brief
instant, and her words--ah, those words! They would ring in Billy's head
forever: "I love you, Billy, for what you ARE."

And a sudden resolve came into the mucker's mind as he whispered those
words over and over again to himself. "I can't have her," he said. "She
isn't for

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