The Mucker

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 244

crept forward in the shadows. Behind
them a matter of a hundred yards stood a little clump of horses and with
them were the figures of more men. These waited in silence. The other
three crept toward the house. It was such a ranchhouse as you might find
by the scores or hundreds throughout Texas. Grayson, evidently, or some
other Texan, had designed it. There was nothing Mexican about it, nor
anything beautiful. It stood two storied, verandaed and hideous, a blot
upon the soil of picturesque Mexico.

To the roof of the veranda clambered the three prowlers, and across it
to an open window. The window belonged to the bedroom of Miss Barbara
Harding. Here they paused and listened, then two of them entered the
room. They were gone for but a few minutes. When they emerged they
showed evidences, by their gestures to the third man who had awaited
outside, of disgust and disappointment.

Cautiously they descended as they had come and made their way back to
those other men who had remained with the horses. Here there ensued a
low-toned conference, and while it progressed Barbara Harding reached
forth a steady hand which belied the terror in her soul and plucked the
revolver from Eddie Shorter's lap. Eddie slept on.

Again on tiptoe the girl recrossed the office to the locked door leading
into the back room. The key was in the lock. Gingerly she turned it,
keeping a furtive eye upon the sleeping guard, and the muzzle of his own
revolver leveled menacingly upon him. Eddie Shorter stirred in his sleep
and raised a hand to his face. The heart of Barbara Harding ceased to
beat while she stood waiting for the man to open his eyes and discover
her; but he did nothing of the kind. Instead his hand dropped limply at
his side and he resumed his regular breathing.

The key turned in the lock beneath the gentle pressure of her fingers,
the bolt slipped quietly back and she pushed the door ajar. Within,
Billy Byrne turned inquiring eyes in the direction of the opening door,
and as he saw who it was who entered surprise showed upon his face; but
he spoke no word for the girl held a silencing finger to her lips.

Quickly she came to his side and motioned him to rise while she tugged
at the knots which held the bonds in place about his arms. Once she
stopped long enough to recross the room and close the door which she had
left open when she entered.

It required fully five minutes--the longest five minutes

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