The Mucker

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 195

might now be expected to receive the news that eight of his
troopers had been killed and his two "guests" safely removed from the
sphere of his hospitality.

And even as his mind dwelt delightedly upon the subject a ragged Indian
carrying a carbine and with heavy silver spurs strapped to his bare feet
approached and saluted him.

"General Pesita wishes Senor Capitan Byrne to report to him at once,"
said the man.

"Sure Mike!" replied Billy, and made his way through the pandemonium of
the camp toward the headquarters tent.

As he went he slipped his hand inside his shirt and loosened something
which hung beneath his left arm.

"Li'l ol' ace-in-the-hole," he murmured affectionately.

He found Pesita pacing back and forth before his tent--an energetic
bundle of nerves which no amount of hard riding and fighting could tire
or discourage.

As Billy approached Pesita shot a quick glance at his face, that he
might read, perhaps, in his new officer's expression whether anger or
suspicion had been aroused by the killing of his American friend, for
Pesita never dreamed but that Bridge had been dead since mid-forenoon.

"Well," said Pesita, smiling, "you left Senor Bridge and Miguel safely
at their destination?"

"I couldn't take 'em all the way," replied Billy, "cause I didn't have
no more men to guard 'em with; but I seen 'em past the danger I guess
an' well on their way."

"You had no men?" questioned Pesita. "You had six troopers."

"Oh, they was all croaked before we'd been gone two hours. You see it
happens like this: We got as far as that dry arroyo just before the
trail drops down into the valley, when up jumps a bunch of this here
Villa's guys and commenced takin' pot shots at us.

"Seein' as how I was sent to guard Bridge an' Mig, I makes them dismount
and hunt cover, and then me an' my men wades in and cleans up the bunch.
They was only a few of them but they croaked the whole bloomin' six o'
mine.

"I tell you it was some scrap while it lasted; but I saved your guests
from gettin' hurted an' I know that that's what you sent me to do. It's
too bad about the six men we lost but, leave it to me, we'll get even
with that Villa guy yet. Just lead me to 'im."

As he spoke Billy commenced scratching himself beneath the left arm, and
then, as though to better reach the point of irritation, he slipped his
hand inside his shirt. If Pesita noticed the apparently innocent little
act, or interpreted it

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