The Mucker

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 24

close to the yacht, which had slowed down
almost to a dead stop. In answer to the query of the Lotus' captain
Skipper Simms was explaining their trouble.

"I'm Captain Jones," he shouted, "of the brigantine Clarinda, Frisco
to Yokohama with dynamite. We disabled our rudder yesterday, an' this
afternoon fire started in the hold. It's makin' headway fast now, an'll
reach the dynamite most any time. You'd better take us aboard, an' get
away from here as quick as you can. 'Tain't safe nowhere within five
hun'erd fathom of her."

"You'd better make haste, Captain, hadn't you?" suggested Mr. Harding.

"I don't like the looks of things, sir," replied that officer. "She
ain't flyin' any dynamite flag, an' if she was an' had a hold full
there wouldn't be any particular danger to us, an' anyone that has
ever shipped dynamite would know it, or ought to. It's not fire that
detonates dynamite, it's concussion. No sir, Mr. Harding, there's
something queer here--I don't like the looks of it. Why just take a good
look at the faces of those men. Did you ever see such an ugly-looking
pack of unhung murderers in your life, sir?"

"I must admit that they're not an overly prepossessing crowd, Norris,"
replied Mr. Harding. "But it's not always either fair or safe to judge
strangers entirely by appearances. I'm afraid that there's nothing else
for it in the name of common humanity than to take them aboard, Norris.
I'm sure your fears are entirely groundless."

"Then it's your orders, sir, to take them aboard?" asked Captain Norris.

"Yes, Captain, I think you'd better," said Mr. Harding.

"Very good, sir," replied the officer, turning to give the necessary
commands.

The officers and men of the Halfmoon swarmed up the sides of the Lotus,
dark-visaged, fierce, and forbidding.

"Reminds me of a boarding party of pirates," remarked Billy Mallory,
as he watched Blanco, the last to throw a leg over the rail, reach the
deck.

"They're not very pretty, are they?" murmured Barbara Harding,
instinctively shrinking closer to her companion.

"'Pretty' scarcely describes them, Barbara," said Billy; "and do you
know that somehow I am having difficulty in imagining them on their
knees giving up thanks to the Lord for their rescue--that was your
recent idea of 'em, you will recall."

"If you have purposely set yourself the task of being more than
ordinarily disagreeable today, Billy," said Barbara sweetly, "I'm sure
it will please you to know that you are succeeding."

"I'm glad I'm successful at something then," laughed the man. "I've
certainly been unsuccessful enough in another matter."

"What, for example?" asked Barbara, innocently.

"Why in trying

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