The Mucker

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 266

ranchhouse. We may be able to
stand 'em off. Have you heard anything of Miss Barbara?"

Anthony Harding shook his head sadly.

"Then we'll have to stay right here and do the best we can," said
Bridge. "I was thinking we might make a run for it if Miss Barbara was
here; but as she's not we must wait for those who went out after her."

Mr. Harding summoned the two Mexicans while Bridge ran to the cookhouse
and ordered the Chinaman to the ranchhouse. Then the erstwhile
bookkeeper ransacked the bunkhouse for arms and ammunition. What little
he found he carried to the ranchhouse, and with the help of the others
barricaded the doors and windows of the first floor.

"We'll have to make our fight from the upper windows," he explained to
the ranch owner. "If Pesita doesn't bring too large a force we may be
able to stand them off until you can get help from Cuivaca. Call up
there now and see if you can get Villa to send help--he ought to protect
you from Pesita. I understand that there is no love lost between the
two."

Anthony Harding went at once to the telephone and rang for the central
at Cuivaca.

"Tell it to the operator," shouted Bridge who stood peering through an
opening in the barricade before a front window; "they are coming now,
and the chances are that the first thing they'll do is cut the telephone
wires."

The Easterner poured his story and appeal for help into the ears of the
girl at the other end of the line, and then for a few moments there was
silence in the room as he listened to her reply.

"Impossible!" and "My God! it can't be true," Bridge heard the older man
ejaculate, and then he saw him hang up the receiver and turn from the
instrument, his face drawn and pinched with an expression of utter
hopelessness.

"What's wrong?" asked Bridge.

"Villa has turned against the Americans," replied Harding, dully. "The
operator evidently feels friendly toward us, for she warned me not to
appeal to Villa and told me why. Even now, this minute, the man has a
force of twenty-five hundred ready to march on Columbus, New Mexico.
Three Americans were hanged in Cuivaca this afternoon. It's horrible,
sir! It's horrible! We are as good as dead this very minute. Even if
we stand off Pesita we can never escape to the border through Villa's
forces."

"It looks bad," admitted Bridge. "In fact it couldn't look much worse;
but here we are, and while our ammunition holds out about all we can
do

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