The Mucker

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 147

ken of the
trussed deputy sheriff, and as Billy had no desire to be seen he slipped
over the edge of the embankment into a dry ditch, where he squatted upon
his haunches waiting for the train to depart. The stop out there in the
dark night was one of those mysterious stops which trains are prone to
make, unexplained and doubtless unexplainable by any other than a higher
intelligence which directs the movements of men and rolling stock. There
was no town, and not even a switch light. Presently two staccato blasts
broke from the engine's whistle, there was a progressive jerking at
coupling pins, which started up at the big locomotive and ran rapidly
down the length of the train, there was the squeaking of brake shoes
against wheels, and the train moved slowly forward again upon its
long journey toward the coast, gaining momentum moment by moment until
finally the way-car rolled rapidly past the hidden fugitive and the
freight rumbled away to be swallowed up in the darkness.

When it had gone Billy rose and climbed back upon the track, along which
he plodded in the wake of the departing train. Somewhere a road would
presently cut across the track, and along the road there would be
farmhouses or a village where food and drink might be found.

Billy was penniless, yet he had no doubt but that he should eat when he
had discovered food. He was thinking of this as he walked briskly toward
the west, and what he thought of induced a doubt in his mind as to
whether it was, after all, going to be so easy to steal food.

"Shaw!" he exclaimed, half aloud, "she wouldn't think it wrong for a guy
to swipe a little grub when he was starvin'. It ain't like I was goin'
to stick a guy up for his roll. Sure she wouldn't see nothin' wrong for
me to get something to eat. I ain't got no money. They took it all away
from me, an' I got a right to live--but, somehow, I hate to do it. I
wisht there was some other way. Gee, but she's made a sissy out o' me!
Funny how a feller can change. Why I almost like bein' a sissy," and
Billy Byrne grinned at the almost inconceivable idea.

Before Billy came to a road he saw a light down in a little depression
at one side of the track. It was not such a light as a lamp shining
beyond a window makes. It rose and fell, winking and flaring close

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