The Mucker

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 269

barred
their way to liberty.

That they had surprised him even more than he had them was evidenced by
the wildness of his shot which passed harmlessly above their heads as
well as by the fact that he had permitted them to come so close before
engaging them.

To the latter event was attributable his undoing, for it permitted Billy
Byrne to close with him before the Indian could reload his antiquated
weapon. Down the two men went, the American on top, each striving for
a death-hold; but in weight and strength and skill the Piman was far
outclassed by the trained fighter, a part of whose daily workouts had
consisted in wrestling with proficient artists of the mat.

Barbara Harding ran forward to assist her champion but as the men rolled
and tumbled over the ground she could find no opening for a blow that
might not endanger Billy Byrne quite as much as it endangered his
antagonist; but presently she discovered that the American required no
assistance. She saw the Indian's head bending slowly forward beneath the
resistless force of the other's huge muscles, she heard the crack that
announced the parting of the vertebrae and saw the limp thing which
had but a moment before been a man, pulsing with life and vigor, roll
helplessly aside--a harmless and inanimate lump of clay.

Billy Byrne leaped to his feet, shaking himself as a great mastiff might
whose coat had been ruffled in a fight.

"Come!" he whispered. "We gotta beat it now for sure. That guy's shot'll
lead 'em right down to us," and once more they took up their flight down
toward the valley, along an unknown trail through the darkness of the
night.

For the most part they moved in silence, Billy holding the girl's arm
or hand to steady her over the rough and dangerous portions of the path.
And as they went there grew in Billy's breast a love so deep and so
resistless that he found himself wondering that he had ever imagined
that his former passion for this girl was love.

This new thing surged through him and over him with all the blind,
brutal, compelling force of a mighty tidal wave. It battered down and
swept away the frail barriers of his new-found gentleness. Again he was
the Mucker--hating the artificial wall of social caste which separated
him from this girl; but now he was ready to climb the wall, or, better
still, to batter it down with his huge fists. But the time was not
yet--first he must get Barbara to a place of safety.

On and on they

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