The Mucker

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 146

conjured from nothing, there rose between himself and the
unconscious man beside him the figure of a beautiful girl. Her face was
brave and smiling, and in her eyes was trust and pride--whole worlds of
them. Trust and pride in Billy Byrne.

Billy closed his eyes tight as though in physical pain. He brushed his
hand quickly across his face.

"Gawd!" he muttered. "I can't do it--but I came awful close to it."

Dropping the revolver into his side pocket he kneeled beside the deputy
sheriff and commenced to go through the man's clothes. After a moment he
came upon what he sought--a key ring confining several keys.

Billy found the one he wished and presently he was free. He still stood
looking at the deputy sheriff.

"I ought to croak you," he murmured. "I'll never make my get-away if I
don't; but SHE won't let me--God bless her."

Suddenly a thought came to Billy Byrne. If he could have a start he
might escape. It wouldn't hurt the man any to stay here for a few hours,
or even for a day. Billy removed the deputy's coat and tore it into
strips. With these he bound the man to a tree. Then he fastened a gag in
his mouth.

During the operation the deputy regained consciousness. He looked
questioningly at Billy.

"I decided not to croak you," explained the young man. "I'm just a-goin'
to leave you here for a while. They'll be lookin' all along the right o'
way in a few hours--it won't be long afore they find you. Now so long,
and take care of yerself, bo," and Billy Byrne had gone.

A mistake that proved fortunate for Billy Byrne caused the penitentiary
authorities to expect him and his guard by a later train, so no
suspicion was aroused when they failed to come upon the train they
really had started upon. This gave Billy a good two hours' start that he
would not otherwise have had--an opportunity of which he made good use.

Wherefore it was that by the time the authorities awoke to the fact
that something had happened Billy Byrne was fifty miles west of Joliet,
bowling along aboard a fast Santa Fe freight. Shortly after night had
fallen the train crossed the Mississippi. Billy Byrne was hungry and
thirsty, and as the train slowed down and came to a stop out in the
midst of a dark solitude of silent, sweet-smelling country, Billy opened
the door of his box car and dropped lightly to the ground.

So far no one had seen Billy since he had passed from the

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