The Mucker

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 254

pony; but when he had mounted and ridden from
town he took a strange direction for one whose path lies to the east,
since he turned his pony's head toward the northwest.

Jose had ridden far that day, since Billy had left his humble hut. He
had gone to the west to the little rancho of one of Pesita's adherents
who had dispatched a boy to carry word to the bandit that his Captain
Byrne had escaped the Villistas, and then Jose had ridden into Cuivaca
by a circuitous route which brought him up from the east side of the
town.

Now he was riding once again for Pesita; but this time he would bear
the information himself. He found the chief in camp and after begging
tobacco and a cigarette paper the Indian finally reached the purpose of
his visit.

"Jose has just come from Cuivaca," he said, "and there he drank with
all the Mexican vaqueros of El Orobo Rancho--ALL, my general, you
understand. It seems that Esteban has carried off the beautiful senorita
of El Orobo Rancho, and the vaqueros tell Jose that ALL the American
vaqueros have ridden in search of her--ALL, my general, you understand.
In such times of danger it is odd that the gringos should leave El Orobo
thus unguarded. Only the rich Senor Harding, two house servants, and a
Chinaman remain."

A man lay stretched upon his blankets in a tent next to that occupied
by Pesita. At the sound of the speaker's voice, low though it was, he
raised his head and listened. He heard every word, and a scowl settled
upon his brow. Barbara stolen! Mr Harding practically alone upon the
ranch! And Pesita in possession of this information!

Bridge rose to his feet. He buckled his cartridge belt about his waist
and picked up his carbine, then he crawled under the rear wall of his
tent and walked slowly off in the direction of the picket line where the
horses were tethered.

"Ah, Senor Bridge," said a pleasant voice in his ear; "where to?"

Bridge turned quickly to look into the smiling, evil face of Rozales.

"Oh," he replied, "I'm going out to see if I can't find some shooting.
It's awfully dull sitting around here doing nothing."

"Si, senor," agreed Rozales; "I, too, find it so. Let us go together--I
know where the shooting is best."

"I don't doubt it," thought Bridge; "probably in the back;" but aloud
he said: "Certainly, that will be fine," for he guessed that Rozales had
been set to watch his movements and prevent his escape, and, perchance,
to be the sole

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