The Mucker

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 263

few dying fires
cast a wavering and uncertain light upon the scene. Through the shadows
Billy Byrne crept closer and closer. At last he lay close beside one of
the huts which was to be the first to claim his attention.

For several moments he lay listening intently for any sound which might
come from within; but there was none. He crawled to the doorway and
peered within. Utter darkness shrouded and hid the interior.

Billy rose and walked boldly inside. If he could see no one within, then
no one could see him once he was inside the door. Therefore, so reasoned
Billy Byrne, he would have as good a chance as the occupants of the hut,
should they prove to be enemies.

He crossed the floor carefully, stopping often to listen. At last he
heard a rustling sound just ahead of him. His fingers tightened upon the
revolver he carried in his right hand, by the barrel, clublike. Billy
had no intention of making any more noise than necessary.

Again he heard a sound from the same direction. It was not at all unlike
the frightened gasp of a woman. Billy emitted a low growl, in fair
imitation of a prowling dog that has been disturbed.

Again the gasp, and a low: "Go away!" in liquid feminine tones--and in
English!

Billy uttered a low: "S-s-sh!" and tiptoed closer. Extending his hands
they presently came in contact with a human body which shrank from him
with another smothered cry.

"Barbara!" whispered Billy, bending closer.

A hand reached out through the darkness, found him, and closed upon his
sleeve.

"Who are you?" asked a low voice.

"Billy," he replied. "Are you alone in here?"

"No, an old woman guards me," replied the girl, and at the same time
they both heard a movement close at hand, and something scurried
past them to be silhouetted for an instant against the path of lesser
darkness which marked the location of the doorway.

"There she goes!" cried Barbara. "She heard you and she has gone for
help."

"Then come!" said Billy, seizing the girl's arm and dragging her to her
feet; but they had scarce crossed half the distance to the doorway when
the cries of the old woman without warned them that the camp was being
aroused.

Billy thrust a revolver into Barbara's hand. "We gotta make a fight of
it, little girl," he said. "But you'd better die than be here alone."

As they emerged from the hut they saw warriors running from every
doorway. The old woman stood screaming in Piman at the top of her lungs.
Billy, keeping Barbara in front

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