The Mucker

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 72

her block?" he whispered in an
awed voice. Something strange rose in the mucker's breast at the thought
he had just voiced. He did not attempt to analyze the sensation; but it
was far from joy at the suggestion that the woman he so hated had met a
horrible and disgusting death at the hands of savages.

"I'm afraid not, Byrne," said Theriere, in a voice that none there would
have recognized as that of the harsh and masterful second officer of the
Halfmoon.

"Yer afraid not!" echoed Billy Byrne, in amazement.

"For her sake I hope that they did," said Theriere; "for such as she it
would have been a far less horrible fate than the one I fear they have
reserved her for."

"You mean--" queried Byrne, and then he stopped, for the realization of
just what Theriere did mean swept over him quite suddenly.

There was no particular reason why Billy Byrne should have felt toward
women the finer sentiments which are so cherished a possession of those
men who have been gently born and raised, even after they have learned
that all women are not as was the feminine ideal of their boyhood.

Billy's mother, always foul-mouthed and quarrelsome, had been a
veritable demon when drunk, and drunk she had been whenever she
could, by hook or crook, raise the price of whiskey. Never, to Billy's
recollection, had she spoken a word of endearment to him; and so
terribly had she abused him that even while he was yet a little boy,
scarce out of babyhood, he had learned to view her with a hatred as
deep-rooted as is the affection of most little children for their
mothers.

When he had come to man's estate he had defended himself from the
woman's brutal assaults as he would have defended himself from another
man--when she had struck, Billy had struck back; the only thing to
his credit being that he never had struck her except in self-defense.
Chastity in woman was to him a thing to joke of--he did not believe
that it existed; for he judged other women by the one he knew best--his
mother. And as he hated her, so he hated them all. He had doubly hated
Barbara Harding since she not only was a woman, but a woman of the class
he loathed.

And so it was strange and inexplicable that the suggestion of the girl's
probable fate should have affected Billy Byrne as it did. He did not
stop to reason about it at all--he simply knew that he felt a mad and
unreasoning rage against the creatures that had

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