The Mucker

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 191

Spanish that he was upon the wrong trail.

"Wot's this guy chewin' about?" asked Billy, turning to Miguel.

"He says you must keep to the arroyo, Senor Capitan," explained the
Mexican.

"Tell him to go back into his stall," was Byrne's laconic rejoinder, as
he pushed his mount forward to pass the brigand.

The soldier was voluble in his objections. Again he reined in front of
Billy, and by this time his five fellows had spurred forward to block
the way.

"This is the wrong trail," they cried. "Come this other way, Capitan.
Pesita has so ordered it."

Catching the drift of their remarks, Billy waved them to one side.

"I'm bossin' this picnic," he announced. "Get out o' the way, an' be
quick about it if you don't want to be hurted."

Again he rode forward. Again the troopers interposed their mounts, and
this time their leader cocked his carbine. His attitude was menacing.
Billy was close to him. Their ponies were shoulder to shoulder, that of
the bandit almost broadside of the trail.

Now Billy Byrne was more than passing well acquainted with many of the
fundamental principles of sudden brawls. It is safe to say that he had
never heard of Van Bibber; but he knew, as well as Van Bibber knew, that
it is well to hit first.

Without a word and without warning he struck, leaning forward with
all the weight of his body behind his blow, and catching the man full
beneath the chin he lifted him as neatly from his saddle as though a
battering ram had struck him.

Simultaneously Bridge and Miguel drew revolvers from their shirts and as
Billy wheeled his pony toward the remaining five they opened fire upon
them.

The battle was short and sweet. One almost escaped but Miguel, who
proved to be an excellent revolver shot, brought him down at a hundred
yards. He then, with utter disregard for the rules of civilized warfare,
dispatched those who were not already dead.

"We must let none return to carry false tales to Pesita," he explained.

Even Billy Byrne winced at the ruthlessness of the cold-blooded murders;
but he realized the necessity which confronted them though he could not
have brought himself to do the things which the Mexican did with such
sang-froid and even evident enjoyment.

"Now for the others!" cried Miguel, when he had assured himself that
each of the six were really quite dead.

Spurring after him Billy and Bridge ran their horses over the rough
ground at the base of the little hill, and then parallel to the arroyo
for a matter of a hundred yards, where

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