The Mucker

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 134

staring at the heavy weight until he had perused it.

"Any answer?" he asked.

"No answer, kid," replied Byrne, "that I can't take myself," and he
tossed a dollar to the worshiping boy.

An hour later Billy Byrne was ascending the broad, white steps that led
to the entrance of Anthony Harding's New York house. The servant who
answered his ring eyed him suspiciously, for Billy Byrne still dressed
like a teamster on holiday. He had no card!

"Tell Miss Harding that Mr. Byrne has come," he said.

The servant left him standing in the hallway, and started to ascend the
great staircase, but halfway up he met Miss Harding coming down.

"Never mind, Smith," she said. "I am expecting Mr. Byrne," and then
seeing that the fellow had not seated her visitor she added, "He is a
very dear friend." Smith faded quickly from the scene.

"Billy!" cried the girl, rushing toward him with out-stretched hands.
"O Billy, we thought you were dead. How long have you been here? Why
haven't you been to see me?"

Byrne hesitated.

A great, mad hope had been surging through his being since he had read
of the broken engagement and received the girl's note. And now in her
eyes, in her whole attitude, he could read, as unmistakably as though
her lips had formed the words that he had not hoped in vain.

But some strange influence had seemed suddenly to come to work upon
him. Even in the brief moment of his entrance into the magnificence of
Anthony Harding's home he had felt a strange little stricture of the
throat--a choking, half-suffocating sensation.

The attitude of the servant, the splendor of the furnishings, the
stateliness of the great hall, and the apartments opening upon it--all
had whispered to him that he did not "belong."

And now Barbara, clothed in some wondrous foreign creation, belied by
her very appearance the expression that suffused her eyes.

No, Billy Byrne, the mucker, did not belong there. Nor ever could he
belong, more than Barbara ever could have "belonged" on Grand Avenue.
And Billy Byrne knew it now. His heart went cold. The bottom seemed
suddenly to have dropped out of his life.

Bravely he had battled to forget this wonderful creature, or, rather,
his hopeless love for her--her he could never forget. But the note from
her, and the sight of her had but served to rekindle the old fire within
his breast.

He thought quickly. His own life or happiness did not count. Nothing
counted now but Barbara. He had seen the lovelight in her eyes. He
thanked God that he had realized what

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