The Mucker

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 194

of
a depredating Mexican outlaw. Billy knew nothing of the political
conditions of the republic. Had Pesita told him that he was president of
Mexico, Billy could not have disputed the statement from any knowledge
of facts which he possessed. As a matter of fact about all Billy had
ever known of Mexico was that it had some connection with an important
place called Juarez where running meets were held.

To Billy Byrne, then, Pesita was a real general, and Billy, himself,
a bona fide captain. He had entered an army which was at war with some
other army. What they were warring about Billy knew not, nor did he
care. There should be fighting and he loved that--that much he knew.
The ethics of Pesita's warfare troubled him not. He had heard that some
great American general had said: "War is hell." Billy was willing to
take his word for it, and accept anything which came in the guise of war
as entirely proper and as it should be.

The afternoon was far gone when Billy drew rein in the camp of the
outlaw band. Pesita with the bulk of his raiders was out upon some
excursion to the north. Only half a dozen men lolled about, smoking or
sleeping away the hot day. They looked at Billy in evident surprise
when they saw him riding in alone; but they asked no questions and Billy
offered no explanation--his report was for the ears of Pesita only.

The balance of the day Billy spent in acquiring further knowledge of
Spanish by conversing with those of the men who remained awake, and
asking innumerable questions. It was almost sundown when Pesita rode
in. Two riderless horses were led by troopers in the rear of the
little column and three men swayed painfully in their saddles and their
clothing was stained with blood.

Evidently Pesita had met with resistance. There was much voluble
chattering on the part of those who had remained behind in their
endeavors to extract from their returning comrades the details of the
day's enterprise. By piecing together the various scraps of conversation
he could understand Billy discovered that Pesita had ridden far to
demand tribute from a wealthy ranchero, only to find that word of
his coming had preceded him and brought a large detachment of Villa's
regulars who concealed themselves about the house and outbuildings until
Pesita and his entire force were well within close range.

"We were lucky to get off as well as we did," said an officer.

Billy grinned inwardly as he thought of the pleasant frame of mind in
which Pesita

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