The Mucker

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 162

before I took a tumble to myself I'd
have hated you, Bridge. I'd a-hated your fine talk, an' your poetry, an'
the thing about you that makes you hate to touch a guy for a hand-out.

"I'd a-hated myself if I'd thought that I could ever talk mushy like I
am now. Gee, Bridge, but I was the limit! A girl--a nice girl--called
me a mucker once, an' a coward. I was both; but I had the reputation of
bein' the toughest guy on the West Side, an' I thought I was a man. I
nearly poked her face for her--think of it, Bridge! I nearly did; but
something stopped me--something held my hand from it, an' lately I've
liked to think that maybe what stopped me was something in me that had
always been there--something decent that was really a part of me. I hate
to think that I was such a beast at heart as I acted like all my life
up to that minute. I began to change then. It was mighty slow, an' I'm
still a roughneck; but I'm gettin' on. She helped me most, of course,
an' now you're helpin' me a lot, too--you an' your poetry stuff. If some
dick don't get me I may get to be a human bein' before I die."

Bridge laughed.

"It IS odd," he said, "how our viewpoints change with changed
environment and the passing of the years. Time was, Billy, when I'd have
hated you as much as you would have hated me. I don't know that I should
have said hate, for that is not exactly the word. It was more contempt
that I felt for men whom I considered as not belonging upon that
intellectual or social plane to which I considered I had been born.

"I thought of people who moved outside my limited sphere as 'the great
unwashed.' I pitied them, and I honestly believe now that in the bottom
of my heart I considered them of different clay than I, and with souls,
if they possessed such things, about on a par with the souls of sheep
and cows.

"I couldn't have seen the man in you, Billy, then, any more than you
could have seen the man in me. I have learned much since then, though
I still stick to a part of my original articles of faith--I do believe
that all men are not equal; and I know that there are a great many more
with whom I would not pal than there are those with whom I would.

"Because one man speaks

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