The Mucker

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 265

enemy as it hid the enemy from them. They had
reached the point where Barbara was positive the sentry should be.
The girl was clinging tightly to Billy's left arm. He could feel the
pressure of her fingers as they sunk into his muscles, sending little
tremors and thrills through his giant frame. Even in the face of death
Billy Byrne could sense the ecstasies of personal contact with this
girl--the only woman he ever had loved or ever would.

And then a black shadow loomed before them, and a rifle flashed in their
faces without a word or a sign of warning.


MR. ANTHONY HARDING was pacing back and forth the length of the veranda
of the ranchhouse at El Orobo waiting for some word of hope from those
who had ridden out in search of his daughter, Barbara. Each swirling
dust devil that eddied across the dry flat on either side of the river
roused hopes within his breast that it might have been spurred into
activity by the hoofs of a pony bearing a messenger of good tidings; but
always his hopes were dashed, for no horseman emerged from the heat haze
of the distance where the little dust devils raced playfully among the
cacti and the greasewood.

But at last, in the northwest, a horseman, unheralded by gyrating dust
column, came into sight. Mr. Harding shook his head sorrowfully. It had
not been from this direction that he had expected word of Barbara, yet
he kept his eyes fastened upon the rider until the latter reined in at
the ranchyard and loped a tired and sweating pony to the foot of the
veranda steps. Then Mr. Harding saw who the newcomer was.

"Bridge!" he exclaimed. "What brings you back here? Don't you know that
you endanger us as well as yourself by being seen here? General Villa
will think that we have been harboring you."

Bridge swung from the saddle and ran up onto the veranda. He paid not
the slightest attention to Anthony Harding's protest.

"How many men you got here that you can depend on?" he asked.

"None," replied the Easterner. "What do you mean?"

"None!" cried Bridge, incredulity and hopelessness showing upon his
countenance. "Isn't there a Chinaman and a couple of faithful Mexicans?"

"Oh, yes, of course," assented Mr. Harding; "but what are you driving

"Pesita is on his way here to clean up El Orobo. He can't be very far
behind me. Call the men you got, and we'll get together all the guns and
ammunition on the ranch, and barricade the

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