The Mucker

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 253

do except talk about their troubles. They
had not been paid since the looting of the bank at Cuivaca, for Mr.
Harding had been unable to get any silver from elsewhere until a few
days since. He now had assurances that it was on the way to him; but
whether or not it would reach El Orobo was a question.

"Why should we stay here when we are not paid?" asked one of them.

"Yes, why?" chorused several others.

"There is nothing to do here," said another. "We will go to Cuivaca. I,
for one, am tired of working for the gringos."

This met with the unqualified approval of all, and a few moments
later the men had saddled their ponies and were galloping away in the
direction of sun-baked Cuivaca. They sang now, and were happy, for they
were as little boys playing hooky from school--not bad men; but rather
irresponsible children.

Once in Cuivaca they swooped down upon the drinking-place, where, with
what little money a few of them had left they proceeded to get drunk.

Later in the day an old, dried-up Indian entered. He was hot and dusty
from a long ride.

"Hey, Jose!" cried one of the vaqueros from El Orobo Rancho; "you old
rascal, what are you doing here?"

Jose looked around upon them. He knew them all--they represented the
Mexican contingent of the riders of El Orobo. Jose wondered what they
were all doing here in Cuivaca at one time. Even upon a pay day it never
had been the rule of El Orobo to allow more than four men at a time to
come to town.

"Oh, Jose come to buy coffee and tobacco," he replied. He looked about
searchingly. "Where are the others?" he asked, "--the gringos?"

"They have ridden after Esteban," explained one of the vaqueros. "He has
run off with Senorita Harding."

Jose raised his eyebrows as though this was all news.

"And Senor Grayson has gone with them?" he asked. "He was very fond of
the senorita."

"Senor Grayson has run away," went on the other speaker. "The other
gringos wished to hang him, for it is said he has bribed Esteban to do
this thing."

Again Jose raised his eyebrows. "Impossible!" he ejaculated. "And who
then guards the ranch?" he asked presently.

"Senor Harding, two Mexican house servants, and a Chinaman," and the
vaquero laughed.

"I must be going," Jose announced after a moment. "It is a long ride for
an old man from my poor home to Cuivaca, and back again."

The vaqueros were paying no further attention to him, and the Indian
passed out and sought his

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