The Mucker

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 155

elevated his eyebrows a trifle. He had been mistaken, after all.
At the farmhouse the farmer's wife greeted them kindly, thanked Billy
for returning her pail--which, if the truth were known, she had not
expected to see again--and gave them each a handful of thick, light,
golden-brown cookies, the tops of which were encrusted with sugar.

As they walked away Bridge sighed. "Nothing on earth like a good woman,"
he said.

"'Maw,' or 'Penelope'?" asked Billy.

"Either, or both," replied Bridge. "I have no Penelope, but I did have a
mighty fine 'maw'."

Billy made no reply. He was thinking of the slovenly, blear-eyed woman
who had brought him into the world. The memory was far from pleasant. He
tried to shake it off.

"'Bridge,'" he said, quite suddenly, and apropos of nothing, in an
effort to change the subject. "That's an odd name. I've heard of Bridges
and Bridger; but I never heard Bridge before."

"Just a name a fellow gave me once up on the Yukon," explained Bridge.
"I used to use a few words he'd never heard before, so he called me 'The
Unabridged,' which was too long. The fellows shortened it to 'Bridge'
and it stuck. It has always stuck, and now I haven't any other. I even
think of myself, now, as Bridge. Funny, ain't it?"

"Yes," agreed Billy, and that was the end of it. He never thought
of asking his companion's true name, any more than Bridge would have
questioned him as to his, or of his past. The ethics of the roadside
fire and the empty tomato tin do not countenance such impertinences.

For several days the two continued their leisurely way toward Kansas
City. Once they rode a few miles on a freight train, but for the most
part they were content to plod joyously along the dusty highways. Billy
continued to "rustle grub," while Bridge relieved the monotony by an
occasional burst of poetry.

"You know so much of that stuff," said Billy as they were smoking by
their camp fire one evening, "that I'd think you'd be able to make some
up yourself."

"I've tried," admitted Bridge; "but there always seems to be something
lacking in my stuff--it don't get under your belt--the divine afflatus
is not there. I may start out all right, but I always end up where I
didn't expect to go, and where nobody wants to be."

"'Member any of it?" asked Billy.

"There was one I wrote about a lake where I camped once," said Bridge,
reminiscently; "but I can only recall one stanza."

"Let's have it," urged Billy. "I bet it has Knibbs

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