The Mucker

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 153

of a happy dog
just released from a night of captivity.

Bridge yawned and stretched. Billy rose to his feet and shook himself.

"This is the life," said Bridge. "Where you going?"

"To rustle grub," replied Billy. "That's my part o' the sketch."

The other laughed. "Go to it," he said. "I hate it. That's the part that
has come nearest making me turn respectable than any other. I hate to
ask for a hand-out."

Billy shrugged. He'd done worse things than that in his life, and off he
trudged, whistling. He felt happier than he had for many a day. He never
had guessed that the country in the morning could be so beautiful.

Behind him his companion collected the material for a fire, washed
himself in the creek, and set the tin can, filled with water, at the
edge of the kindling, and waited. There was nothing to cook, so it was
useless to light the fire. As he sat there, thinking, his mind reverted
to the red mark upon Billy's wrist, and he made a wry face.

Billy approached the farmhouse from which the sounds of awakening still
emanated. The farmer saw him coming, and ceasing his activities about
the barnyard, leaned across a gate and eyed him, none too hospitably.

"I wanna get something to eat," explained Billy.

"Got any money to pay for it with?" asked the farmer quickly.

"No," said Billy; "but me partner an' me are hungry, an' we gotta eat."

The farmer extended a gnarled forefinger and pointed toward the rear
of the house. Billy looked in the direction thus indicated and espied a
woodpile. He grinned good naturedly.

Without a word he crossed to the corded wood, picked up an ax which was
stuck in a chopping block, and, shedding his coat, went to work. The
farmer resumed his chores. Half an hour later he stopped on his way in
to breakfast and eyed the growing pile that lay beside Billy.

"You don't hev to chop all the wood in the county to get a meal from Jed
Watson," he said.

"I wanna get enough for me partner, too," explained Billy.

"Well, yew've chopped enough fer two meals, son," replied the farmer,
and turning toward the kitchen door, he called: "Here, Maw, fix this boy
up with suthin' t'eat--enough fer a couple of meals fer two on 'em."

As Billy walked away toward his camp, his arms laden with milk, butter,
eggs, a loaf of bread and some cold meat, he grinned rather contentedly.

"A year or so ago," he mused, "I'd a stuck 'em up fer this,

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