The Mucker

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 54

their place at the wheel.

Unassisted he could do little with the heavy helm. Barbara saw that
he alone of all the officers and men of the brigantine was making an
attempt to save the vessel. However futile the effort might be, it at
least bespoke the coolness and courage of the man. With the sight of him
there wrestling with death in a hopeless struggle a little wave of pride
surged through the girl. Here indeed was a man! And he loved her--that
she knew. Whether or no she returned his love her place was beside him
now, to give what encouragement and physical aid lay in her power.

Quickly she ran to the wheelhouse. Theriere saw her and smiled.

"There's no hope, I'm afraid," he said; "but, by George, I intend to go
down fighting, and not like those miserable yellow curs."

Barbara did not reply, but she grasped the spokes of the heavy wheel and
tugged as he tugged. Theriere made no effort to dissuade her from the
strenuous labor--every ounce of weight would help so much, and the man
had a wild, mad idea that he was attempting to put into effect.

"What do you hope to do?" asked the girl. "Make that opening in the
cliffs?"

Theriere nodded.

"Do you think me crazy?" he asked.

"It is such a chance as only a brave man would dare to take," she
replied. "Do you think that we can get her to take it?"

"I doubt it," he answered. "With another man at the wheel we might,
though."

Below them the crew of the Halfmoon ran hither and thither along the
deck on the side away from the breakers. They fought with one another
for useless bits of planking and cordage. The giant figure of the black
cook, Blanco, rose above the others. In his hand was a huge butcher
knife. When he saw a piece of wood he coveted in the hands of another he
rushed upon his helpless victim with wild, bestial howls, menacing him
with his gleaming weapon. Thus he was rapidly accumulating the material
for a life raft.

But there was a single figure upon the deck that did not seem mad with
terror. A huge fellow he was who stood leaning against the capstan
watching the wild antics of his fellows with a certain wondering
expression of incredulity, the while a contemptuous smile curled his
lips. As Barbara Harding chanced to look in his direction he also
chanced to turn his eyes toward the wheelhouse. It was the mucker.

The girl was surprised that he, the greatest coward of them

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