The Mucker

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 31

to whose society she had been driven by
loneliness and fear, and appeared on deck frequently during the daylight
watches. Here, one afternoon, she came face to face with Theriere
for the first time since her abduction. The officer lifted his cap
deferentially; but the girl met his look of expectant recognition with
a cold, blank stare that passed through and beyond him as though he had
been empty air.

A tinge of color rose to the man's face, and he continued on his way for
a moment as though content to accept her rebuff; but after a step or two
he turned suddenly and confronted her.

"Miss Harding," he said, respectfully, "I cannot blame you for the
feeling of loathing and distrust you must harbor toward me; but in
common justice I think you should hear me before finally condemning."

"I cannot imagine," she returned coldly, "what defense there can be for
the cowardly act you perpetrated."

"I have been utterly deceived by my employers," said Theriere, hastening
to take advantage of the tacit permission to explain which her reply
contained. "I was given to understand that the whole thing was to be but
a hoax--that I was taking part in a great practical joke that Mr. Divine
was to play upon his old friends, the Hardings and their guests. Until
they wrecked and deserted the Lotus in mid-ocean I had no idea that
anything else was contemplated, although I felt that the matter, even
before that event, had been carried quite far enough for a joke.

"They explained," he continued, "that before sailing you had expressed
the hope that something really exciting and adventurous would befall
the party--that you were tired of the monotonous humdrum of
twentieth-century existence--that you regretted the decadence of piracy,
and the expunging of romance from the seas.

"Mr. Divine, they told me, was a very wealthy young man, to whom you
were engaged to be married, and that he could easily afford the
great expense of the rather remarkable hoax we were supposed to be
perpetrating. I saw no harm in taking part in it, especially as I knew
nothing of the supposititious purpose of the cruise until just before we
reached Honolulu. Before that I had been led to believe that it was but
a pleasure trip to the South Pacific that Mr. Divine intended.

"You see, Miss Harding, that I have been as badly deceived as you. Won't
you let me help to atone for my error by being your friend? I can assure
you that you will need one whom you can trust amongst this shipload of
scoundrels."

"Who

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