The Mucker

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 257

as they approached higher ground, or wound through
gullies and ravines it was lost to their sight; but always they kept it
as their goal. The trail they were upon led to it--of that there
could be no longer the slightest doubt. And as they rode with their
destination in view black, beady eyes looked down upon them from the
very green oasis toward which they urged their ponies--tiring now from
the climb.

A lithe, brown body lay stretched comfortably upon a bed of grasses at
the edge of a little rise of ground beneath which the riders must pass
before they came to the cluster of huts which squatted in a tiny natural
park at the foot of the main peak. Far above the watcher a spring of
clear, pure water bubbled out of the mountain-side, and running downward
formed little pools among the rocks which held it. And with this water
the Pimans irrigated their small fields before it sank from sight again
into the earth just below their village. Beside the brown body lay a
long rifle. The man's eyes watched, unblinking, the two specks far below
him whom he knew and had known for an hour were gringos.

Another brown body wormed itself forward to his side and peered over the
edge of the declivity down upon the white men. He spoke a few words in
a whisper to him who watched with the rifle, and then crawled back again
and disappeared. And all the while, onward and upward came Billy Byrne
and Eddie Shorter, each knowing in his heart that if not already, then
at any moment a watcher would discover them and a little later a bullet
would fly that would find one of them, and they took the chance for the
sake of the American girl who lay hidden somewhere in these hills, for
in no other way could they locate her hiding place more quickly. Any one
of the other eight Americans who rode in pairs into the hills at other
points to the left and right of Billy Byrne and his companion would
have and was even then cheerfully taking the same chances that Eddie and
Billy took, only the latter were now assured that to one of them would
fall the sacrifice, for as they had come closer Eddie had seen a thin
wreath of smoke rising from among the trees of the oasis. Now, indeed,
were they sure that they had chanced upon the trail to the Piman
village.

"We gotta keep our eyes peeled," said Eddie, as they wound into a ravine
which

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