The Mucker

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 219

back now," she explained. "Papa will be wondering what
has become of me."

"Yes," said Bridge, and let her go. He would have been glad to tell her
the truth; but he couldn't do that without betraying Billy. He had heard
enough to know that Francisco Villa had been so angered over the bold
looting of the bank in the face of a company of his own soldiers that
he would stop at nothing to secure the person of the thief once his
identity was known. Bridge was perfectly satisfied with the ethics of
his own act on the night of the bank robbery. He knew that the girl
would have applauded him, and that Grayson himself would have done what
Bridge did had a like emergency confronted the ranch foreman; but to
have admitted complicity in the escape of the fugitive would have been
to have exposed himself to the wrath of Villa, and at the same time
revealed the identity of the thief. "Nor," thought Bridge, "would it get
Brazos back for Barbara."

It was after dark when the vaqueros Grayson had sent to the north range
returned to the ranch. They came empty-handed and slowly for one of them
supported a wounded comrade on the saddle before him. They rode directly
to the office where Grayson and Bridge were going over some of the
business of the day, and when the former saw them his brow clouded for
he knew before he heard their story what had happened.

"Who done it?" he asked, as the men filed into the office, half carrying
the wounded man.

"Some of Pesita's followers," replied Benito.

"Did they git the steers, too?" inquired Grayson.

"Part of them--we drove off most and scattered them. We saw the Brazos
pony, too," and Benito looked from beneath heavy lashes in the direction
of the bookkeeper.

"Where?" asked Grayson.

"One of Pesita's officers rode him--an Americano. Tony and I saw this
same man in Cuivaca the night the bank was robbed, and today he was
riding the Brazos pony." Again the dark eyes turned toward Bridge.

Grayson was quick to catch the significance of the Mexican's meaning.
The more so as it was directly in line with suspicions which he himself
had been nursing since the robbery.

During the colloquy the boss entered the office. He had heard the
returning vaqueros ride into the ranch and noting that they brought no
steers with them had come to the office to hear their story. Barbara,
spurred by curiosity, accompanied her father.

"You heard what Benito says?" asked Grayson, turning toward his
employer.

The latter nodded. All eyes were

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