The Mucker

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 181

gentleman is not an Italian, Billy," he concluded. "He's a
Mexican."

"Who said he was an Eyetalian?" demanded Byrne.

As the two Americans and the Mexican conversed within the hut there
approached across the dusty flat, from the direction of the nearer
hills, a party of five horsemen.

They rode rapidly, coming toward the hut from the side which had neither
door nor window, so that those within had no warning of their coming.
They were swarthy, ragged ruffians, fully armed, and with an equipment
which suggested that they might be a part of a quasi-military
organization.

Close behind the hut four of them dismounted while the fifth, remaining
in his saddle, held the bridle reins of the horses of his companions.
The latter crept stealthily around the outside of the building, toward
the door--their carbines ready in their hands.

It was one of the little children who first discovered the presence of
the newcomers. With a piercing scream she bolted into the interior and
ran to cling to her mother's skirts.

Billy, Bridge, and the Mexican wheeled toward the doorway simultaneously
to learn the cause of the girl's fright, and as they did so found
themselves covered by four carbines in the hands of as many men.

As his eyes fell upon the faces of the intruders the countenance of
the Mexican fell, while his wife dropped to the floor and embraced his
knees, weeping.

"Wotinell?" ejaculated Billy Byrne. "What's doin'?"

"We seem to have been made prisoners," suggested Bridge; "but whether by
Villistas or Carranzistas I do not know."

Their host understood his words and turned toward the two Americans.

"These are Pesita's men," he said.

"Yes," spoke up one of the bandits, "we are Pesita's men, and Pesita
will be delighted, Miguel, to greet you, especially when he sees the
sort of company you have been keeping. You know how much Pesita loves
the gringos!"

"But this man does not even know us," spoke up Bridge. "We stopped here
to get a meal. He never saw us before. We are on our way to the El Orobo
Rancho in search of work. We have no money and have broken no laws. Let
us go our way in peace. You can gain nothing by detaining us, and as for
Miguel here--that is what you called him, I believe--I think from what
he said to us that he loves a gringo about as much as your revered chief
seems to."

Miguel looked his appreciation of Bridge's defense of him; but it was
evident that he did not expect it to bear fruit. Nor did it. The brigand
spokesman only grinned sardonically.

"You

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