The Mucker

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 32

am I to believe?" cried the girl. "Mr. Divine assures me that he,
too, has been forced into this affair, but by threats of death rather
than deception."

The expression on Mr. Theriere's face was eloquent of sarcastic
incredulity.

"How about the note of introduction that I carried to your father from
Mr. Divine?" asked Theriere.

"He says that he was compelled to write it at the point of a revolver,"
replied the girl.

"Come with me, Miss Harding," said the officer. "I think that I may be
able to convince you that Mr. Divine is not on any such bad terms with
Skipper Simms as would be the case were his story to you true."

As he spoke he started toward the companionway leading to the officers'
cabins. Barbara Harding hesitated at the top of the stairway.

"Have no fear, Miss Harding," Theriere reassured her. "Remember that
I am your friend and that I am merely attempting to prove it to your
entire satisfaction. You owe it to yourself to discover as soon as
possible who your friends are aboard this ship, and who your enemies."

"Very well," said the girl. "I can be in no more danger one place aboard
her than another."

Theriere led her directly to his own cabin, cautioning her to silence
with upraised forefinger. Softly, like skulking criminals, they entered
the little compartment. Then Theriere turned and closed the door,
slipping the bolt noiselessly as he did so. Barbara watched him, her
heart beating rapidly with fear and suspicion.

"Here," whispered Theriere, motioning her toward his berth. "I have
found it advantageous to know what goes on beyond this partition. You
will find a small round hole near the head of the berth, about a foot
above the bedding. Put your ear to it and listen--I think Divine is in
there now."

The girl, still frightened and fearful of the man's intentions, did,
nevertheless, as he bid. At first she could make out nothing beyond the
partition but a confused murmur of voices, and the clink of glass, as
of the touch of the neck of a bottle against a goblet. For a moment she
remained in tense silence, her ear pressed to the tiny aperture. Then,
distinctly, she heard the voice of Skipper Simms.

"I'm a-tellin' you, man," he was saying, "that there wan't nothin' else
to be done, an' I'm a-gettin' damn sick o' hearin' you finding fault all
the time with the way I been a-runnin' o' this little job."

"I'm not finding fault, Simms," returned another voice which the girl
recognized immediately as Divine's; "although I do think that it

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