The Mucker

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 224

alone."

For awhile the girl sat in silence, and presently her father arose and
entered the house. Shortly after she followed him, reappearing soon
in riding togs and walking rapidly to the corrals. Here she found an
American cowboy busily engaged in whittling a stick as he sat upon an
upturned cracker box and shot accurate streams of tobacco juice at a
couple of industrious tumble bugs that had had the great impudence to
roll their little ball of provender within the whittler's range.

"O Eddie!" she cried.

The man looked up, and was at once electrified into action. He sprang
to his feet and whipped off his sombrero. A broad smile illumined his
freckled face.

"Yes, miss," he answered. "What can I do for you?"

"Saddle a pony for me, Eddie," she explained. "I want to take a little
ride."

"Sure!" he assured her cheerily. "Have it ready in a jiffy," and away
he went, uncoiling his riata, toward the little group of saddle ponies
which stood in the corral against necessity for instant use.

In a couple of minutes he came back leading one, which he tied to the
corral bars.

"But I can't ride that horse," exclaimed the girl. "He bucks."

"Sure," said Eddie. "I'm a-goin' to ride him."

"Oh, are you going somewhere?" she asked.

"I'm goin' with you, miss," announced Eddie, sheepishly.

"But I didn't ask you, Eddie, and I don't want you--today," she urged.

"Sorry, miss," he threw back over his shoulder as he walked back to rope
a second pony; "but them's orders. You're not to be allowed to ride no
place without a escort. 'Twouldn't be safe neither, miss," he almost
pleaded, "an' I won't hinder you none. I'll ride behind far enough to be
there ef I'm needed."

Directly he came back with another pony, a sad-eyed, gentle-appearing
little beast, and commenced saddling and bridling the two.

"Will you promise," she asked, after watching him in silence for a time,
"that you will tell no one where I go or whom I see?"

"Cross my heart hope to die," he assured her.

"All right, Eddie, then I'll let you come with me, and you can ride
beside me, instead of behind."

Across the flat they rode, following the windings of the river road,
one mile, two, five, ten. Eddie had long since been wondering what the
purpose of so steady a pace could be. This was no pleasure ride which
took the boss's daughter--"heifer," Eddie would have called her--ten
miles up river at a hard trot. Eddie was worried, too. They had passed
the danger line, and were well within the stamping ground

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