The Mucker

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 189

his hand.

"Senor Captain," he said, "we welcome you. I am Captain Rozales." He
hesitated waiting for Billy to give his name.

"My monacker's Byrne," said Billy. "Pleased to meet you, Cap."

"Ah, Captain Byrne," and Rozales proceeded to introduce the newcomer to
his fellow-officers.

Several, like Rozales, were educated men who had been officers in
the army under former regimes, but had turned bandit as the safer
alternative to suffering immediate death at the hands of the faction
then in power. The others, for the most part, were pure-blooded Indians
whose adult lives had been spent in outlawry and brigandage. All were
small of stature beside the giant, Byrne. Rozales and two others spoke
English. With those Billy conversed. He tried to learn from them the
name of the officer who was to command the escort that was to accompany
Bridge and Miguel into the valley on the morrow; but Rozales and the
others assured him that they did not know.

When he had asked the question Billy had been looking straight at
Rozales, and he had seen the man's pupils contract and noticed the
slight backward movement of the body which also denotes determination.
Billy knew, therefore, that Rozales was lying. He did know who was to
command the escort, and there was something sinister in that knowledge
or the fellow would not have denied it.

The American began to consider plans for saving his friend from the fate
which Pesita had outlined for him. Rozales, too, was thinking rapidly.
He was no fool. Why had the stranger desired to know who was to command
the escort? He knew none of the officers personally. What difference
then, did it make to him who rode out on the morrow with his friend? Ah,
but Miguel knew that it would make a difference. Miguel had spoken to
the new captain, and aroused his suspicions.

Rozales excused himself and rose. A moment later he was in conversation
with Pesita, unburdening himself of his suspicions, and outlining a
plan.

"Do not send me in charge of the escort," he advised. "Send Captain
Byrne himself."

Pesita pooh-poohed the idea.

"But wait," urged Rozales. "Let the stranger ride in command, with a
half-dozen picked men who will see that nothing goes wrong. An hour
before dawn I will send two men--they will be our best shots--on ahead.
They will stop at a place we both know, and about noon the Captain
Byrne and his escort will ride back to camp and tell us that they
were attacked by a troop of Villa's men, and that both our guests were
killed. It will be sad; but

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