The Mucker

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 270

went. The night grew cold. Far ahead there sounded the
occasional pop of a rifle. Billy wondered what it could mean and as they
approached the ranch and he discovered that it came from that direction
he hastened their steps to even greater speed than before.

"Somebody's shootin' up the ranch," he volunteered. "Wonder who it could
be."

"Suppose it is your friend and general?" asked the girl.

Billy made no reply. They reached the river and as Billy knew not where
the fords lay he plunged in at the point at which the water first barred
their progress and dragging the girl after him, plowed bull-like for
the opposite shore. Where the water was above his depth he swam while
Barbara clung to his shoulders. Thus they made the passage quickly and
safely.

Billy stopped long enough to shake the water out of his carbine, which
the girl had carried across, and then forged ahead toward the ranchhouse
from which the sounds of battle came now in increased volume.

And at the ranchhouse "hell was popping." The moment Bridge realized
that some of the attackers had reached the veranda he called the
surviving Mexican and the Chinaman to follow him to the lower floor
where they might stand a better chance to repel this new attack. Mr.
Harding he persuaded to remain upstairs.

Outside a dozen men were battering to force an entrance. Already one
panel had splintered, and as Bridge entered the room he could see the
figures of the bandits through the hole they had made. Raising his
rifle he fired through the aperture. There was a scream as one of the
attackers dropped; but the others only increased their efforts, their
oaths, and their threats of vengeance.

The three defenders poured a few rounds through the sagging door, then
Bridge noted that the Chinaman ceased firing.

"What's the matter?" he asked.

"Allee gonee," replied Sing, pointing to his ammunition belt.

At the same instant the Mexican threw down his carbine and rushed for
a window on the opposite side of the room. His ammunition was exhausted
and with it had departed his courage. Flight seemed the only course
remaining. Bridge made no effort to stop him. He would have been glad to
fly, too; but he could not leave Anthony Harding, and he was sure that
the older man would prove unequal to any sustained flight on foot.

"You better go, too, Sing," he said to the Chinaman, placing another
bullet through the door; "there's nothing more that you can do, and it
may be that they are all on this side now--I think they

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