The Mucker

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 273

a rapid
gallop.

"I guess," said Billy, "that we'd better open up on 'em. It's a cinch
they ain't no friends of ours anywhere in these parts."

"Hadn't we better wait a moment," said Mr. Harding; "we do not want to
chance making any mistake."

"It ain't never a mistake to shoot a Dago," replied Billy. His eyes
were fastened upon the approaching horsemen, and he presently gave an
exclamation of recognition. "There's Rozales," he said. "I couldn't
mistake that beanpole nowheres. We're safe enough in takin' a shot
at 'em if Rosie's with 'em. He's Pesita's head guy," and he drew his
revolver and took a single shot in the direction of his former comrades.
Bridge followed his example. The oncoming Pesitistas reined in. Billy
returned his revolver to its holster and drew his carbine.

"You ride on ahead," he said to Mr. Harding and Barbara. "Bridge and
I'll bring up the rear."

Then he stopped his pony and turning took deliberate aim at the knot of
horsemen to their left. A bandit tumbled from his saddle and the fight
was on.

Fortunately for the Americans Rozales had but a handful of men with him
and Rozales himself was never keen for a fight in the open.

All morning he hovered around the rear of the escaping Americans; but
neither side did much damage to the other, and during the afternoon
Billy noticed that Rozales merely followed within sight of them, after
having dispatched one of his men back in the direction from which they
had come.

"After reinforcements," commented Byrne.

All day they rode without meeting with any roving bands of soldiers or
bandits, and the explanation was all too sinister to the Americans when
coupled with the knowledge that Villa was to attack an American town
that night.

"I wish we could reach the border in time to warn 'em," said Billy; "but
they ain't no chance. If we cross before sunup tomorrow morning we'll be
doin' well."

He had scarcely spoken to Barbara Harding all day, for his duties as
rear guard had kept him busy; nor had he conversed much with Bridge,
though he had often eyed the latter whose gaze wandered many times to
the slender, graceful figure of the girl ahead of them.

Billy was thinking as he never had thought before. It seemed to him a
cruel fate that had so shaped their destinies that his best friend loved
the girl Billy loved. That Bridge was ignorant of Billy's infatuation
for her the latter well knew. He could not blame Bridge, nor could he,
upon the other hand, quite reconcile himself to the more

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