The Mucker

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 213

had a glimpse of the horseman in
his rear--two miles behind him, now, but rapidly closing up the distance
at a keen gallop, while he strained his eyes across the moonlit flat
ahead in eager search for his quarry.

So absorbed was Billy Byrne in his reflections that his ears were deaf
to the pounding of the hoofs of the pursuer's horse upon the soft dust
of the dry road until Bridge was little more than a hundred yards from
him. For the last half-mile Bridge had had the figure of the fugitive in
full view and his mind had been playing rapidly with seductive visions
of the one-thousand dollars reward--one-thousand dollars Mex, perhaps,
but still quite enough to excite pleasant thoughts. At the first glimpse
of the horseman ahead Bridge had reined his mount down to a trot that
the noise of his approach might thereby be lessened. He had drawn his
revolver from its holster, and was upon the point of putting spurs
to his horse for a sudden dash upon the fugitive when the man ahead,
finally attracted by the noise of the other's approach, turned in his
saddle and saw him.

Neither recognized the other, and at Bridge's command of, "Hands up!"
Billy, lightning-like in his quickness, drew and fired. The bullet raked
Bridge's hat from his head but left him unscathed.

Billy had wheeled his pony around until he stood broadside toward
Bridge. The latter fired scarce a second after Billy's shot had pinged
so perilously close--fired at a perfect target but fifty yards away.

At the sound of the report the robber's horse reared and plunged, then,
wheeling and tottering high upon its hind feet, fell backward. Billy,
realizing that his mount had been hit, tried to throw himself from the
saddle; but until the very moment that the beast toppled over the man
was held by his cartridge belt which, as the animal first lunged, had
caught over the high horn of the Mexican saddle.

The belt slipped from the horn as the horse was falling, and Billy
succeeded in throwing himself a little to one side. One leg, however,
was pinned beneath the animal's body and the force of the fall jarred
the revolver from Billy's hand to drop just beyond his reach.

His carbine was in its boot at the horse's side, and the animal was
lying upon it. Instantly Bridge rode to his side and covered him with
his revolver.

"Don't move," he commanded, "or I'll be under the painful necessity of
terminating your earthly endeavors right here and now."

"Well, for the love o' Mike!" cried the

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