The Mucker

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 135

it all would have meant, before he
let her see that he had seen it.

"I've been back several months," he said presently, in answer to her
question; "but I got sense enough to stay where I belong. Gee! Wouldn't
I look great comin' up here buttin' in, wit youse bunch of highlifes?"

Billy slapped his thigh resoundingly and laughed in stentorian tones
that caused the eyebrows of the sensitive Smith on the floor above to
elevate in shocked horror.

"Den dere was de mills. I couldn't break away from me work, could I, to
chase a bunch of skirts?"

Barbara felt a qualm of keen disappointment that Billy had fallen again
into the old dialect that she had all but eradicated during those days
upon distant "Manhattan Island."

"I wouldn't o' come up atal," he went on, "if I hadn't o' read in de
poiper how youse an' Mallory had busted. I t'ought I'd breeze in an' see
wot de trouble was."

His eyes had been averted, mostly, as he talked. Now he swung suddenly
upon her.

"He's on de square, ain't he?" he demanded.

"Yes," said Barbara. She was not quite sure whether to feel offended, or
not. But the memory of Billy's antecedents came to his rescue. Of course
he didn't know that it was such terribly bad form to broach such a
subject to her, she thought.

"Well, then," continued the mucker, "wot's up? Mallory's de guy fer
youse. Youse loved him or youse wouldn't have got engaged to him."

The statement was almost an interrogation.

Barbara nodded affirmatively.

"You see, Billy," she started, "I have always known Mr. Mallory, and
always thought that I loved him until--until--" There was no answering
light in Billy's eyes--no encouragement for the words that were on
her lips. She halted lamely. "Then," she went on presently, "we became
engaged after we reached New York. We all thought you dead," she
concluded simply.

"Do you think as much of him now as you did when you promised to marry
him?" he asked, ignoring her reference to himself and all that it

Barbara nodded.

"What is at the bottom of this row?" persisted Billy. He had fallen back
into the decent pronunciation that Barbara had taught him, but neither
noticed the change. For a moment he had forgotten that he was playing a
part. Then he recollected.

"Nothing much," replied the girl. "I couldn't rid myself of the feeling
that they had murdered you, by leaving you back there alone and wounded.
I began to think 'coward' every time I saw Mr. Mallory. I couldn't marry
him, feeling that way toward him, and, Billy,

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