The Mucker

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 45

It was very interesting--he wondered what odds O'Leary would have
laid against the man.

In another moment the wave would come. Billy glanced at the open cabin
hatch. That would never do--the cabin would be flooded with tons of
water should the next wave find the hatch still open. Billy closed
it. Then he looked again toward Theriere. The man was just recovering
consciousness--and the wave was coming.

Something stirred within Billy Byrne. It gripped him and made him act
quickly as though by instinct to do something that no one, Billy himself
least of all, would have suspected that the Grand Avenue mucker would
have been capable of.

Across the deck Theriere was dragging himself painfully to his hands and
knees, as though to attempt the impossible feat of crawling back to the
cabin hatch. The wave was almost upon Billy. In a moment it would engulf
him, and then rush on across him to tear Theriere from the deck and hurl
him beyond the ship into the tumbling, watery, chaos of the sea.

The mucker saw all this, and in the instant he launched himself toward
the man for whom he had no use, whose kind he hated, reaching him as
the great wave broke over them, crushing them to the deck, choking and
blinding them.

For a moment they were buried in the swirling maelstrom, and then as the
Halfmoon rose again, shaking the watery enemy from her back, the two men
were disclosed--Theriere half over the ship's side--the mucker clinging
to him with one hand, the other clutching desperately at a huge cleat
upon the gunwale.

Byrne dragged the mate to the deck, and then slowly and with infinite
difficulty across it to the cabin hatch. Through it he pushed the man,
tumbling after him and closing the aperture just as another wave swept
the Halfmoon.

Theriere was conscious and but little the worse for his experience,
though badly bruised. He looked at the mucker in astonishment as the two
faced each other in the cabin.

"I don't know why you did it," said Theriere.

"Neither do I," replied Billy Byrne.

"I shall not forget it, Byrne," said the officer.

"Yeh'd better," answered Billy, turning away.

The mucker was extremely puzzled to account for his act. He did not look
upon it at all as a piece of heroism; but rather as a "fool play" which
he should be ashamed of. The very idea! Saving the life of a gink who,
despite his brutal ways, belonged to the much-despised "highbrow" class.
Billy was peeved with himself.

Theriere, for his part, was surprised at the unexpected heroism of

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