The Mucker

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 179

his face, and it was not
until they had all emerged and he had reentered the room with a light
that he discovered that once again his quarry had eluded him. Detective
Sergeant Flannagan was peeved.

The sun smote down upon a dusty road. A heat-haze lay upon the arid land
that stretched away upon either hand toward gray-brown hills. A little
adobe hut, backed by a few squalid outbuildings, stood out, a screaming
high-light in its coat of whitewash, against a background that was
garish with light.

Two men plodded along the road. Their coats were off, the brims of their
tattered hats were pulled down over eyes closed to mere slits against
sun and dust.

One of the men, glancing up at the distant hut, broke into verse:

Yet then the sun was shining down, a-blazing on the little town,
A mile or so 'way down the track a-dancing in the sun.
But somehow, as I waited there, there came a shiver in the air,
"The birds are flying south," he said. "The winter has begun."


His companion looked up at him who quoted.

"There ain't no track," he said, "an' that 'dobe shack don't look much
like a town; but otherwise his Knibbs has got our number all right, all
right. We are the birds a-flyin' south, and Flannagan was the shiver
in the air. Flannagan is a reg'lar frost. Gee! but I betcha dat guy's
sore."

"Why is it, Billy," asked Bridge, after a moment's silence, "that upon
occasion you speak king's English after the manner of the boulevard, and
again after that of the back alley? Sometimes you say 'that' and 'dat'
in the same sentence. Your conversational clashes are numerous. Surely
something or someone has cramped your original style."

"I was born and brought up on 'dat,'" explained Billy. "SHE taught me
the other line of talk. Sometimes I forget. I had about twenty years of
the other and only one of hers, and twenty to one is a long shot--more
apt to lose than win."

"'She,' I take it, is PENELOPE," mused Bridge, half to himself. "She
must have been a fine girl."

"'Fine' isn't the right word," Billy corrected him. "If a thing's fine
there may be something finer, and then something else finest. She was
better than finest. She--she was--why, Bridge, I'd have to be a walking
dictionary to tell you what she was."

Bridge made no reply, and the two trudged on toward the whitewashed hut
in silence for several minutes. Then Bridge broke it:

And you, my sweet Penelope,

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