The Mucker

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 39

while beyond them
stood Barbara Harding held fascinated by the grim tragedy that was
unfolding before her upon this accursed vessel.

Theriere leaned over the open hatch, in full view of the waiting Byrne,
ready below. There was the instant report of a firearm and a bullet
whizzed close past Theriere's head.

"Avast there, Byrne!" he shouted. "It's I, Theriere. Don't shoot again,
I want to speak to you."

"No monkey business now," growled the mucker in reply. "I won't miss

"I want to talk with you, Byrne," said Theriere in a low tone. "I'm
coming down there."

"No you ain't, cul," returned Byrne; "leastways yeh ain't a-comin' down
here alive."

"Yes I am, Byrne," replied Theriere, "and you don't want to be foolish
about it. I'm unarmed. You can cover me with your gun until you have
satisfied yourself as to that. I'm the only man on the ship that can
save your life--the only man that has any reason to want to; but we've
got to talk it over and we can't talk this way where there's a chance of
being overheard. I'll be on the square with you if you will with me,
and if we can't come to terms I'll come above again and you won't be
any worse off than you are now. Here I come," and without waiting for an
acceptance of his proposition the second officer of the Halfmoon slipped
over the edge of the hatchway and disappeared from the sight of the
watchers above.

That he was a brave man even Billy Byrne had to admit, and those above
who knew nothing of the relations existing between the second mate and
the sailor, who had so recently felled him, thought that his courage was
little short of marvelous. Theriere's stock went up by leaps and bounds
in the estimation of the sailors of the Halfmoon, for degraded though
they were they could understand and appreciate physical courage of this
sort, while to Barbara Harding the man's act seemed unparalleled in its
utter disregard of the consequences of life and death to himself that it
entailed. She suddenly was sorry that she had entertained any suspicions
against Theriere--so brave a man could not be other than the soul of
honor, she argued.

Once below Theriere found himself covered by his own revolver in the
hands of a very desperate and a very unprincipled man. He smiled at
Byrne as the latter eyed him suspiciously.

"See here, Byrne," said Theriere. "It would be foolish for me to say
that I am doing this for love of you. The fact is that I need

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