The Mucker

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 239

was there. He's the squarest guy
in the world, Bridge is. He follered me that night an' took a shot at
me, thinkin' I was the robber all right but not knowin' I was me. He
got my horse, an' when he found it was me, he made me take your pony an'
make my get-away, fer he knew Villa's men would croak me sure if they
caught me. You can't blame him fer that, can you? Him an' I were good
pals--he couldn't do nothin' else. It was him that made me bring your
pony back to you. It's in the corral now, I reckon. I was a-bringin' it
back when they got me. Now you better go. This ain't no place fer you,
an' I ain't had no sleep fer so long I'm most dead." His tones were
cool. He appeared bored by her company; though as a matter of fact
his heart was breaking with love for her--love that he believed
unrequited--and he yearned to tear loose his bonds and crush her in his

It was Barbara's turn now to be hurt. She drew herself up.

"I am sorry that I have disturbed your rest," she said, and walked away,
her head in the air; but all the way back to the ranchhouse she kept
repeating over and over to herself: "Tomorrow they will shoot him!
Tomorrow they will shoot him! Tomorrow they will shoot him!"


FOR an hour Barbara Harding paced the veranda of the ranchhouse, pride
and love battling for the ascendency within her breast. She could not
let him die, that she knew; but how might she save him?

The strains of music and the laughter from the bunkhouse had ceased. The
ranch slept. Over the brow of the low bluff upon the opposite side of
the river a little party of silent horsemen filed downward to the ford.
At the bluff's foot a barbed-wire fence marked the eastern boundary of
the ranch's enclosed fields. The foremost horseman dismounted and cut
the strands of wire, carrying them to one side from the path of the feet
of the horses which now passed through the opening he had made.

Down into the river they rode following the ford even in the darkness
with an assurance which indicated long familiarity. Then through a
fringe of willows out across a meadow toward the ranch buildings
the riders made their way. The manner of their approach, their utter
silence, the hour, all contributed toward the sinister.

Upon the veranda of the ranchhouse Barbara Harding came to

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