The Mucker

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 274

than apparent
adoration which marked his friend's attitude toward Barbara.

As daylight waned the fugitives realized from the shuffling gait
of their mounts, from drooping heads and dull eyes that rest was
imperative. They themselves were fagged, too, and when a ranchhouse
loomed in front of them they decided to halt for much-needed
recuperation.

Here they found three Americans who were totally unaware of Villa's
contemplated raid across the border, and who when they were informed of
it were doubly glad to welcome six extra carbines, for Barbara not
only was armed but was eminently qualified to expend ammunition without
wasting it.

Rozales and his small band halted out of range of the ranch; but they
went hungry while their quarry fed themselves and their tired mounts.

The Clark brothers and their cousin, a man by the name of Mason, who
were the sole inhabitants of the ranch counseled a long rest--two hours
at least, for the border was still ten miles away and speed at the last
moment might be their sole means of salvation.

Billy was for moving on at once before the reinforcements, for which he
was sure Rozales had dispatched his messenger, could overtake them. But
the others were tired and argued, too, that upon jaded ponies they could
not hope to escape and so they waited, until, just as they were ready to
continue their flight, flight became impossible.

Darkness had fallen when the little party commenced to resaddle
their ponies and in the midst of their labors there came a rude and
disheartening interruption. Billy had kept either the Chinaman or Bridge
constantly upon watch toward the direction in which Rozales' men lolled
smoking in the dark, and it was the crack of Bridge's carbine which
awoke the Americans to the fact that though the border lay but a few
miles away they were still far from safety.

As he fired Bridge turned in his saddle and shouted to the others to
make for the shelter of the ranchhouse.

"There are two hundred of them," he cried. "Run for cover!"

Billy and the Clark brothers leaped to their saddles and spurred toward
the point where Bridge sat pumping lead into the advancing enemy.
Mason and Mr. Harding hurried Barbara to the questionable safety of the
ranchhouse. The Mexican followed them, and Bridge ordered Sing back to
assist in barricading the doors and windows, while he and Billy and the
Clark boys held the bandits in momentary check.

Falling back slowly and firing constantly as they came the four
approached the house while Pesita and his full band advanced cautiously
after them. They had almost reached

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