The Mucker

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 249

him."

"The hound!" muttered Eddie.

The two men dashed up onto the veranda of the ranchhouse and pounded at
the door until a Chinaman opened it and stuck out his head, inquiringly.

"Is Miss Harding here?" demanded Billy.

"Mlissy Hardie Kleep," snapped the servant. "Wally wanee here flo
blekfas?", and would have shut the door in their faces had not Billy
intruded a heavy boot. The next instant he placed a large palm over the
celestial's face and pushed the man back into the house. Once inside he
called Mr. Harding's name aloud.

"What is it?" asked the gentleman a moment later as he appeared in a
bedroom doorway off the living-room clad in his pajamas. "What's the
matter? Why, gad man, is that you? Is this really Billy Byrne?"

"Sure," replied Byrne shortly; "but we can't waste any time chinnin'. I
heard that Miss Barbara was goin' to be swiped last night--I heard that
she had been. Now hurry and see if she is here."

Anthony Harding turned and leaped up the narrow stairway to the second
floor four steps at a time. He hadn't gone upstairs in that fashion in
forty years. Without even pausing to rap he burst into his daughter's
bedroom. It was empty. The bed was unruffled. It had not been slept in.
With a moan the man turned back and ran hastily to the other rooms upon
the second floor--Barbara was nowhere to be found. Then he hastened
downstairs to the two men awaiting him.

As he entered the room from one end Grayson entered it from the other
through the doorway leading out upon the veranda. Billy Byrne had heard
footsteps upon the boards without and he was ready, so that as Grayson
entered he found himself looking straight at the business end of a
sixshooter. The foreman halted, and stood looking in surprise first at
Billy Byrne, and then at Eddie Shorter and Mr. Harding.

"What does this mean?" he demanded, addressing Eddie. "What you doin'
here with your prisoner? Who told you to let him out, eh?"

"Can the chatter," growled Billy Byrne. "Shorter didn't let me out. I
escaped hours ago, and I've just come back from Jose's to ask you where
Miss Harding is, you low-lived cur, you. Where is she?"

"What has Mr. Grayson to do with it?" asked Mr. Harding. "How should he
know anything about it? It's all a mystery to me--you here, of all men
in the world, and Grayson talking about you as the prisoner. I can't
make it out. Quick, though, Byrne, tell me all you know about Barbara."

Billy kept

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