The Mucker

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 148

to
the ground.

It looked much like a camp fire, and as Billy drew nearer he saw that
such it was, and he heard a voice, too. Billy approached more carefully.
He must be careful always to see before being seen. The little fire
burned upon the bank of a stream which the track bridged upon a concrete
arch.

Billy dropped once more from the right of way, and climbed a fence into
a thin wood. Through this he approached the camp fire with small chance
of being observed. As he neared it the voice resolved itself into
articulate words, and presently Billy leaned against a tree close behind
the speaker and listened.

There was but a single figure beside the small fire--that of a man
squatting upon his haunches roasting something above the flames. At one
edge of the fire was an empty tin can from which steam arose, and an
aroma that was now and again wafted to Billy's nostrils.

Coffee! My, how good it smelled. Billy's mouth watered. But the
voice--that interested Billy almost as much as the preparations for the
coming meal.

We'll dance a merry saraband from here to drowsy Samarcand.
Along the sea, across the land, the birds are flying South,
And you, my sweet Penelope, out there somewhere you wait for me,
With buds of roses in your hair and kisses on your mouth.


The words took hold of Billy somewhere and made him forget his hunger.
Like a sweet incense which induces pleasant daydreams they were wafted
in upon him through the rich, mellow voice of the solitary camper, and
the lilt of the meter entered his blood.

But the voice. It was the voice of such as Billy Byrne always had
loathed and ridiculed until he had sat at the feet of Barbara Harding
and learned many things, including love. It was the voice of culture
and refinement. Billy strained his eyes through the darkness to have a
closer look at the man. The light of the camp fire fell upon frayed and
bagging clothes, and upon the back of a head covered by a shapeless, and
disreputable soft hat.

Obviously the man was a hobo. The coffee boiling in a discarded tin can
would have been proof positive of this without other evidence; but there
seemed plenty more. Yes, the man was a hobo. Billy continued to stand
listening.

The mountains are all hid in mist, the valley is like amethyst,
The poplar leaves they turn and twist, oh, silver, silver green!

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